Bethlehem, January 12, 2018 – Calling addicted babies “innocent, voiceless and invisible” victims of Pennsylvania’s worsening opioid crisis, state Sen. Lisa Boscola today said she will soon introduce legislation that would mandate the reporting of any infant born with an addiction to opioids.
“A key component of dealing with this opioid epidemic is gaining a better understanding of how widespread and devastating the crisis is,” Boscola (D-Northampton). “We need to get a handle on how many babies are being born with addictions because it necessitates specialized care throughout the state.”
Currently, Pennsylvania has no real-time reporting requirement. As a result, the state cannot assess how widespread the problem is, whether the problem is worsening and what kinds of resources will be needed. Under the Boscola bill, medical personnel would be required to provide real-time data on babies born with an addiction to the state Department of Health. She said she will continue working with department officials on issues ranging from what data will be collected to confidentiality concerns.
“It’s so horribly tragic when you consider how many babies are born with drug withdrawal symptoms,” Boscola said. “These infants face a far greater risk of premature birth, low birthweight, sleep issues, growth problems, seizures and tremors.”
She said other states have implemented such a reporting mandate and has seen a drop in neonatal abstinence syndrome (NAS). The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has reported that nearly one in five pregnant women fill an opioid medication prescription during pregnancy and a child is born with NAS every 25 minutes. In a study of 28 states, the rate of NAS has skyrocketed by 300 percent between 1999 and 2013.
Boscola commended Gov. Tom Wolf for his emergency declaration on the opioid abuse epidemic this week. She said his declaration will help make more resources available and rally a more concerted effort to combat opioid addiction. “During the emergency declaration, hospitals will be required to report the information, however we must require that reporting all the time” Boscola said.
As chair of the Senate Democratic Policy Committee, Boscola has held hearings over the past few years throughout the state on the opioid addiction crisis. Her committee has taken extensive testimony from doctors, health officials, law enforcement officers, addicts, family members and others on the crisis and recommendations for combatting the epidemic.
“We cannot have a detached view of the opioid crisis,” Boscola said. “It is imperative that we gather the data we need, marshal and coordinate what resources we can and take a comprehensive and aggressive approach to quelling this epidemic.”
Boscola said she started circulating a co-sponsorship memo prior to the governor’s announcement and currently has 11 co-sponsors. She is hopeful the governor’s announcement will encourage more members to sign onto her bill, which will be introduced in the coming weeks.
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