Opioid Abuse Bill Passes with Barletta Protection for Newborns

Jul 8, 2016
Press Release
Education, Prevention, Treatment, Law Enforcement Form Comprehensive Approach

WASHINGTON – Congressman Lou Barletta (PA-11) today voted in favor of sweeping legislation combating the growing opioid epidemic, a package which contains his own bill that specifically protects addicted newborns and their caregivers.  Barletta was a member of the conference committee that worked out the differences between House and Senate versions.  The bill, titled the Conference Report to Accompany S. 524, the Comprehensive Addiction and Recovery Act, combines educational and prevention programs, enhanced treatment, and increased law enforcement efforts to provide a comprehensive approach to the expanding problem of opioid abuse.  The conference report passed the House by a vote of 407-to-5 and must also be approved by the Senate.

“All you have to do is read the newspapers or watch television news to know that substance abuse is a problem that afflicts millions of Americans,” Barletta said.  “The opioid epidemic is something that I consistently hear about when I am home in Pennsylvania.  I am pleased to be a strong supporter of this comprehensive legislation that will attack the problem, and help bring so many lives back from the brink of disaster.”

As a conferee on the legislation, Barletta was able to secure the inclusion of provisions his own Infant Plan of Safe Care Improvement Act (H.R. 4843), which had already passed the House on its own by a unanimous vote of 421-to-0.  Specifically, based on Barletta’s legislation, the bill:

  • Requires 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).
  • Strengthens protections for infants born with addiction by clarifying the intent of safe care plans. 
  • Improves accountability related to the care of infants and their families by requiring additional information on the incidents of infants born with substance exposure and their care. 
  • Provides states with best practices for developing plans to keep infants and their caregivers healthy and safe.
  • Encourages the use of information made available through other child welfare laws in verifying CAPTA compliance.

CAPTA was enacted in 1974 to coordinate federal efforts to prevent and respond to child abuse and neglect.  The law provides states with resources to improve their child protective services systems.  In order to receive funds under CAPTA, states are required to assure the Department of Health and Human Services that they have implemented certain child welfare policies.  Such policies include requiring health care providers to notify state child protective services agencies when a child is born with prenatal illegal substance exposure, as well as requiring the development of a “safe care plan” to protect these newborns and keep them and their caregivers healthy.  A recent Reuters investigation revealed some states are receiving federal funds without having the necessary policies in place, resulting in shocking and deadly consequences.

“Every 25 minutes in this country, a baby is born having already been exposed to drugs and suffering from opioid withdrawal,” Barletta said.  “Children who are exposed to illegal substances before they’re born are helpless in avoiding the pain and suffering caused by addiction, and so many infants enter this world without even a fighting chance.  These children will pay the price for something they had absolutely no control over—something they were defenseless against.”

The overall legislation, the Conference Report to Accompany S. 524, the Comprehensive Addiction and Recovery Act, authorizes the attorney general and the Secretary of Health and Human Services (HHS) to award grants to address the national epidemics of addiction to heroin and prescription opioids, and makes various other changes to Federal law to combat opioid addiction and abuse.  The legislation:

  • Authorizes HHS to award grants to states and combinations of states to carry out a comprehensive opioid abuse response, including education, treatment, and recovery efforts to prevent overdose deaths.
  • Authorizes the Department of Justice to award grants to states, local governments, and nonprofit organizations to carry out a comprehensive opioid abuse response, including alternatives to incarceration, law enforcement training, and treatment to prevent overdose deaths.
  • Creates a task force on pain management to review best practices for chronic and acute pain management.
  • Creates awareness campaigns to spread information on prevention and detection of opioid abuse.
  • Authorizes Community-Based Coalition Enhancement Grants to Address Local Drug Crises.
  • Creates information materials and resources to prevent addiction related to youth sports injuries.
  • Authorizes grants to states to establish, implement, and improve state-based prescription drug monitoring programs.
  • Authorizes grants for states to implement standing orders for opioid reversal drugs.
  • Supports the purchase and distribution of opioid overdose reversal drugs and training for first responders and other key community sectors.
  • Support states in expanding access to addiction treatment services for individuals with an opioid use disorder.
  • Expands access to medication-assisted treatment by authorizing nurse practitioners and physician assistants to prescribe buprenorphine, which is used to treat opioid addiction or treat moderate pain.
  • Reauthorizes the Residential Treatment Program for Pregnant and Postpartum women and creates a new pilot program to support family-based services for women and their children.
  • Requires the Comptroller General of the United States to issue a report on neonatal abstinence syndrome.
  • Clarifies that pharmacists coordinating with the doctor and patient and in accordance with state law do not need to fill the entire amount of a prescription for a Schedule II substance, such as opioids.
  • Facilitates the creation and management of “lock-in” programs to curb identified fraud, abuse, and misuse of prescribed medications.
  • Requires the Government Accountability Office to study and report to Congress on the effects of the various “Good Samaritan” laws at the state level.
  • Protects classified information from disclosure during a federal court challenge by a designee.

“It was a great honor to be named a conferee as the House and Senate worked together to craft this bipartisan legislation to address our nation’s growing opioid epidemic and prevent the heartbreaking instances of addiction and loss that have touched every American community,” Barletta said.  “No American demographic is safe from the scourge of opioid addiction.  It crosses party lines and it transcends Congressional district boundaries.”