Barletta Seeks Support for Bill Protecting Opioid-Addicted Newborns

Apr 15, 2016
Press Release
Bipartisan Bill Addresses Epidemic: Baby Born Addicted Every 19 Minutes in U.S.

WASHINGTON – Congressman Lou Barletta (PA-11) today began seeking further support from his colleagues in the House of Representatives for his bipartisan legislation that protects newborn babies who are born addicted to opioids, which include a variety of pain medications or other drugs, such as heroin.  Along with Rep. Katherine Clark (D-MA), Barletta has circulated what is known as a “Dear Colleague” letter soliciting co-sponsors to add to the six who have already signed on.  The legislation, H.R. 4843, the Improving Safe Care for the Prevention of Infant Abuse and Neglect Act, requires that states which receive federal funds for the treatment of opioid-dependent babies comply with federal law and enact certain guidelines for child welfare.  The legislation does not seek to persecute the mothers of the children, so as not to dissuade parents from allowing their newborns to access appropriate care.

“In the time it takes to cast your first vote today, at least one American baby will be born exposed to opioids,” the letter to lawmakers begins, referring to the startling statistic that a baby is born addicted to opioids every nineteen minutes in the United States. 

This legislation would:

  • Require the department of Health and Human Services to review and confirm states have put in place policies required under the 1974 Child Abuse Prevention and Treatment Act (CAPTA).
     
  • Strengthen protections for infants born with illegal substance exposure by clarifying the intent of safe care plans.
     
  • Improve accountability related to the care of infants and their families by requiring additional information on the incidents of infants born with illegal substance exposure and their care.
     
  • Provide states with best practices for developing plans to keep infants and their caregivers healthy and safe.
  • Encourage the use of information made available through other child welfare laws in verifying CAPTA compliance.

“We see the damage of substance abuse across all segments of our society, but perhaps the most tragic cases involve newborns who enter the world defenseless against the addictions they were born with,” Barletta said.  “We must do everything we can to safeguard the most vulnerable among us and ensure they will be well protected and cared for.”

In addition to Barletta and Clark, the lead Democrat on the bill, original co-sponsors include Rep. John Kline (R-MN), Rep. Jared Polis (D-CO), Rep. Bobby Scott (D-VA), Rep. Glenn “GT” Thompson (R-PA), and Rep. Tim Walberg (R-MI).

The entire “Dear Colleague” letter is as follows:

In the time it takes to cast your first vote today, at least one American baby will be born exposed to opioids…

Help Us Stop the Epidemic

The 1974 Child Abuse Prevention and Treatment Act (CAPTA) requires states to demonstrate that they have implemented certain child welfare policies, including developing “safe care plans” to protect newborns with prenatal substance exposure, in order to receive federal funding to improve their child protective services systems.

Unfortunately, this isn’t happening. A recent Reuters investigation revealed some states are receiving federal funds without having the necessary policies in place. 

To provide infants and mothers affected by substance abuse with the help they need, while also ensuring efficient use of taxpayer dollars, we have introduced the H.R. 4843, the Improving Safe Care for the Prevention of Infant Abuse.  This legislation would:

  • Require the department to review and confirm states have put in place CAPTA policies required under the law;
     
  • Strengthen protections for infants born with illegal substance exposure by clarifying the intent of safe care plans;
     
  • Improve accountability related to the care of infants and their families by requiring additional information on the incidents of infants born with illegal substance exposure and their care;
     
  • Provide states with best practices for developing plans to keep infants and their caregivers healthy and safe;
     
  • Encourage the use of information made available through other child welfare laws in verifying CAPTA compliance;
     
  • Prevent the department from adding new requirements to state assurances and plans.

 

Sincerely,

 

Lou Barletta                                        Katherine Clark

Member of Congress                           Member of Congress

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