WILKES-BARRE — Concerned about the protection of babies born addicted to opioids, U.S. Rep. Lou Barletta Monday co-authored a letter requesting an update on provisions signed into law last year that would provide for their protection.
Calling the situation “an epidemic,” Barletta said there is an opioid-addicted baby born every 25 minutes in the U.S.
Barletta joined U.S. Rep. Evan Jenkins, R-W.Va., in writing a letter to Health and Human Services Secretary Tom Price about their concern.
In response to a Reuters report that most states are failing to comply with a federal law requiring them to establish safe care plans for babies born addicted to opioids, Barletta introduced the Infant Plan of Safe Care Improvement Act, which requires that states receiving federal funds for child protective services comply with federal law and enact certain guidelines for the welfare of children exposed to opioids.
“I consistently hear about the opioid epidemic when I am home in Pennsylvania,” Barletta said. “No segment of our community is safe from the scourge of opioid addiction. Sadly, that includes babies who are born addicted.”
Barletta said every 25 minutes, a baby is born having already been exposed to drugs and suffering from opioid withdrawal. He said his legislation will help bring many lives back from the brink of disaster, particularly those of the most vulnerable among us.
“Since day one, I have worked to make sure that newborns impacted by the drug crisis have a chance at a healthy and happy start to life,” Jenkins said. “That includes safe-care plans, which ensure that states are monitoring the welfare and well-being of these vulnerable babies. Since some states are failing to comply with these requirements, it’s imperative that we continue to hold them accountable.”
Barletta’s bill aims to hold states accountable by:
• Requiring the department of Health and Human Services to review and confirm that states have put in place policies required under the 1974 Child Abuse Prevention and Treatment Act.
• Strengthening protections for infants born with illegal substance exposure by clarifying the intent of safe care plans.
• Improving 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.
• Providing states with best practices for developing plans to keep infants and their caregivers healthy and safe.
•Encouraging the use of information made available through other child welfare laws in verifying CAPTA compliance.
The letter to Price requests that HHS provide an update on the department’s implementation of these provisions.
“I was happy to see members from both parties come together to pass these commonsense reforms,” Barletta said. “This law will help to ensure that children, mothers and their families have the help they need and the care they deserve. I look forward to working with the administration to continue fighting against the problem of opioid addiction.”
Casey to hold hearing
U.S. Sen. Bob Casey, D-Scranton, the chairman and ranking member of the Senate Aging Committee, and U.S. Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine, will convene a hearing on Tuesday titled, “Grandparents to the Rescue: Raising Grandchildren in the Opioid Crisis and Beyond.”
At the invitation of Collins and Casey, respectively, Bette Hoxie, executive director of Adoptive & Foster Families of Maine and the Kinship Program from Orono, Maine, and Sharon McDaniel, MPA, Ed.D., founder, president, and CEO of A Second Chance Inc. in Pittsburgh, will testify about their experiences supporting grandparents raising grandchildren as a result of the rise in heroin use and other opioid abuse.
Other witnesses will include national experts as well as testimonials via video of grandparents who either are or have raised their grandchildren as a result of addiction issues.
The focus of the hearing will be on the health and well-being of grandparents who take on the often-unexpected role of raising their grandchildren later in life, the increase in grandparents raising grandchildren as a result of the opioid epidemic, and what Congress can do to address the epidemic’s impact on grandparents.
“When taking on the responsibility of caring for their grandchildren, grandparents often significantly adjust their life plans, including postponing retirement, depleting their savings, dramatically altering their social lives, and challenging their physical and mental health,” Casey said.
Reach Bill O’Boyle at 570-991-6118 or on Twitter @TLBillOBoyle.