WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell applauded the President for signing into law legislation he introduced that will help address the rise of prenatal opioid abuse and the epidemic of infants who suffer from opioid withdrawal.
The Protecting Our Infants Act, cosponsored by Senator Bob Casey (D-PA), directs the Secretary of Health and Human Services (HHS) to conduct a departmental review to identify gaps in research and detect any duplication, overlap, or gaps in prevention and treatment programs related to prenatal opioid abuse and infants born with opioid withdrawal. It also instructs the HHS Secretary to work with stakeholders to develop recommendations both for preventing prenatal opioid abuse, and for treating infants born dependent on opioids. Finally, it encourages the director of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to work with states and help improve their public health response to this epidemic.
Nationwide, there has been a staggering increase in the number of infants diagnosed with newborn withdrawal since 2000. In Kentucky, that number has grown by more than 4,500 percent — from 29 infants identified as suffering from drug withdrawal annually in 2000 to more than 1,400 in 2014. In response to this national and statewide tragedy, Senator McConnell has helped spearhead efforts in Washington to develop an effective legislative response.
“Tragically, prescription drug abuse and heroin use has skyrocketed in Kentucky and in other states across the nation,” Senator McConnell said. “Americans, no matter their demographic, socio-economic status, age or gender, are dying. One of the most heartbreaking aspects of this crisis is the increasing number of infants who are born dependent on opioids in the form of prescription painkillers and heroin. These infants are the most innocent among us, and for them to start off life suffering from a dependence on drugs is intolerable.”
The Protecting Our Infants Act is supported by the March of Dimes, American Academy of Pediatrics and the American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists.