Ohio Senate Approves Bill to Protect Addicted Mothers

By Paul Gaita 12/08/16

House Bill 325 would encourage expectant mothers to seek treatment for drug issues before the baby is born.

Ohio Senate Approves Bill to Protect Addicted Mothers

Legislation to protect the rights of pregnant women who also suffer from substance addiction was passed unanimously by the Ohio Senate on the final day of November. House Bill 325 prevents child services agencies from removing newborn children from the homes of their mothers based solely on drug use during their pregnancies if the mother completes both treatment programs and prenatal care within 20 weeks of pregnancy. The bill was designed to encourage women to stop using drugs while pregnant and in turn, cut down on a portion of the vast number of heroin addiction and overdose cases plaguing the state.

Senator Bill Coley (R- West Chester), who presided over the committee that considered the bill, noted with cautious optimism that the bill provided "one last chance" for addicted and expecting mothers to seek and find sobriety. "Will this work in every case? Of course not," he said. "Will this get some people in there to seek treatment? Absolutely."

Senate Minority Leader Joe Schiavoni (D-33rd) saw the bill as a unified effort by legislators from both parties to help their constituents. "For us, we believe that this is a small step, but one that is absolutely necessary to do now," said Schiavoni, who successfully amended the bill to add $2 million to aid the Department of Mental Health and Addiction Services during this fiscal year. "This will be a No. 1 priority that we can really go through together – Republicans and Democrats – to deal with this opioid epidemic in our state."

Should the Ohio House concur with the changes made to HB 325 by the Senate, the bill will then be forwarded to Governor John Kasich for approval. Should it be passed into law, it would be the latest effort to add support to the toll taken by the national opioid problem on newborns.

Though they rarely receive the same level of attention as adult addicts, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention found that the number of babies born with neonatal abstinence syndrome – essentially, born with an addiction to drugs and suffering from withdrawal symptoms – has tripled in the last 15 years. Medical professionals have called for greater levels of maintenance-assisted treatment during pregnancy, which has given a small but significant number of new facilities outfitted to assist addicted women during pregnancy.

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Paul Gaita lives in Los Angeles. He has contributed to the Los Angeles Times, Variety, LA Weekly, Amazon.com and The Los Angeles Beat, among many other publications and websites.