Bipartisan Bill To Address NAS Unanimously Passes U.S. House

By McCarton Ackerman 09/11/15

An ultra-rare show of bipartisanship will help mothers struggling with addiction.

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A bipartisan bill to help treat babies with Neonatal Abstinence Syndrome (NAS) was unanimously passed by the U.S. House of Representatives, giving babies whose mothers are struggling with addiction a fighting chance at a healthy life.

U.S. Rep. Katherine Clark (Massachusetts–D) and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (Kentucky–R) joined together to sponsor the bill known as the Protecting Our Infants Act of 2015.

Although no federal money is allotted for the bill if it ends up being approved by the Senate, it directs the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services to identify best practices for diagnosing and treating NAS, coordinate federal research efforts and help state agencies with data collection.

"Unfortunately, our states share a common and tragic bond in that we are both seeing the devastation of the opiate crisis in Kentucky and Massachusetts,” said Clark to MassLive.com. “What we hear from hospitals and experts across the country is they are desperate for help in this area, desperate for best ways to treat these children and babies.”

There is currently not a nationally standard treatment for babies with NAS, leaving hospitals that are often uncertain of best practices to develop their own protocol. There also isn’t a medication designed for treating NAS that has been approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.

The rate of NAS in Massachusetts is three times the national average, while Kentucky saw hospitalizations for the disorder soar from 29 in 2000 to 730 in 2011, a 2,400% increase in total. That number also reflects the state’s issue with prescription drug addiction, which kills 1,000 residents across the state every year.

However, this has continued to remain a growing issue nationwide. Rates of the disorder tripled across the country between 2000-09 and hospitals were spending $1.5 billion annually on treating it by 2012. These babies spent an average of 16 days in the hospital once admitted, at a cost of $54,000 per infant. About 81% of that money was ultimately billed to Medicaid.

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McCarton Ackerman is a freelance writer and editor living in Portland, Oregon. He has been a contributor for The Fix since October 2011, writing on a wide range of topics ranging from medical marijuana in Colorado to the world's sexiest drug smugglers. Follow him on Linkedin and Twitter.

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