Last week, the U.S. House overwhelmingly passed a bill from U.S. Reps. Tom Garrett, R-Va., and Stephanie Murphy, D-Fla., ensuring states have plans ready to help infants born dependent on drugs.
The House passed Garrett’s and Murphy’s “Assisting States’ Implementation of the Plans of Safe Care Act” on a 406 to 3 vote. Republican U.S. Reps. Justin Amash of Michigan, Andy Biggs of Arizona and Thomas Massie voted against the proposal which has the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) offer guidance to states on infants born with drug dependency and makes them work with various health-care providers and other stakeholders while trying to keep families together as much as possible.
“This bill is a significant step towards helping the nameless and faceless victims of the opioid epidemic. The epidemic takes a horrific toll on children born into households where opioid use is prevalent. While no legislation is a panacea, I am excited to patron this bill. I look forward to continuing my term in the 115th Congress by ardently supporting the residents of the Fifth District of Virginia and the United States,” said Garrett when the bill passed on Wednesday.
Garrett has been in the headlines in recent weeks with revelations that he is an alcoholic, his announcement that he was not running for a second term and complaints about his treatment of staff. That being the case, it was no surprise to see Murphy taking a prominent role in getting the bill through the House last week.
Murphy took to the House floor to speak on the legislation.
“The purpose of our bill is to ensure that states have effective plans in place to protect infants who are innocent victims of the opioid epidemic. The bill aims to help Florida and other states develop evidence-based policies and procedures to properly care for babies born dependent on drugs,” Murphy said. “Too many Americans—and too many Floridians—battle opioid addiction. As a mother, it breaks my heart to see innocent children suffer the consequences of adult addiction. We must do everything possible to ensure that drug-dependent babies receive proper care at the hospital and proper family, community and medical support once they are discharged.
“There are an estimated 2.1 million Americans addicted to opioids, typically to prescription painkillers. Babies born to mothers who used opioids during pregnancy are at risk of an opioid-withdrawal condition called Neonatal Abstinence Syndrome. While there are common and effective ways to treat this syndrome, there are no uniform protocols,” Murphy added. “Under federal law, states are required to develop a plan to safely care for infants exposed to substance abuse. However, a 2015 investigation by Reuters indicated that very few states have plans in place that fulfill this federal requirement. As a result, too many infants exposed to substance abuse, and the families responsible for these infants’ care, are not receiving the comprehensive support they need.
“Our bill seeks to address this problem,” Murphy continued. “It would require HHS to provide guidance to states on how to implement safe and effective plans to care for infants born dependent on drugs. It would ensure this guidance promotes evidence-based practices and encourages state governments to collaborate with health care providers, social service agencies, and other community stakeholders. And it would ensure that HHS’s guidance promotes family-centered treatment that seeks to keep families intact whenever possible. Each year, thousands of babies in this country are born addicted to opioids, including about 4,000 in Florida alone. These babies need our support. This bill seeks to provide it. I respectfully ask my colleagues to vote yes.”
The Central Florida Democrat also weighed in after the vote.
“Too many Americans and too many Floridians are battling opioid addiction and, as a mom, it breaks my heart to see innocent children suffer the consequences of adult addiction,” said Murphy. “Our children are our most precious asset, and we must do everything possible to ensure that drug-dependent babies receive proper care at the hospital and the necessary family, community, and medical support once they are discharged.”
The bill now heads to the Senate where there is no sponsor yet.