President Barack Obama last week signed a measure pushed by Ohio's two senators and Rep. Mike Turner, R-Dayton, aimed at coordinating a federal response to babies born addicted to drugs.
Rep. Steve Stivers, R-Upper Arlington, was the lead Republican cosponsor to the Protecting our Infants Act of 2015, sponsored by Rep. Katherine Clark, D-Mass. Obama signed the bill Wednesday. Obama signed a Senate version of the bill introduced by Clark and Stivers. Sens. Sherrod Brown, D-Ohio and Rob Portman, R-Ohio, cosponsored the Senate version of the bill, and eight other House members from Ohio, including Reps. Joyce Beatty, D-Jefferson Township, Pat Tiberi, R-Genoa Township, and Turner also cosponsored the bill.
The bill would require the Department of Health and Human Services to develop a best practices handbook for dealing with Neonatal Abstinence Syndrome, a collection of symptoms that infants can experience as a result of prenatal exposure to drugs such as heroin, methadone, and prescription painkillers. Such babies are born in withdrawal from drugs.
The bill will also require the Department of Health and Human Services to collect data on the syndrome in order to help health care providers diagnose and treat newborns suffering from opiate dependency.
In 2011, Ohio alone spent more than $70 million in treatment of these conditions, including nearly 19,000 days in the hospital, with 1,649 patient admissions.
And a report by the Journal of the American Medical Association showed that the number of newborns diagnosed with NAS tripled between 2000 and 2009. Ohio experienced a more than 600 percent increase in NAS rates between 2004 and 2011.