U.S. Representative Jared Polis

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House unanimously passes Polis’s bill to protect at-risk infants

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Washington, May 11, 2016 | comments

Wednesday, May 11: Washington, D.C. - The House of Representatives unanimously passed legislation today to protect substance-exposed infants. The Improving Safe Care for the Prevention of Infant Abuse and Neglect Act (H.R. 4843), co-authored by Rep. Jared Polis (D-Colo.), requires the U.S. Department of Health and Human Service (HHS) to review and confirm that states have policies to ensure that health care providers notify state child protective service agencies when a child is born with a drug dependency. Per the bill, after notification, the child protective service agencies will develop a “safe care plan” to more closely monitor the health outcomes for these infants.  In the midst of a nationwide opioid crisis, this bill closes a loophole to protect our country’s most vulnerable citizens.

“Babies born with a drug-dependency face unique challenges from birth that need to be addressed swiftly,” Polis said. “They deserve every opportunity just like any other child.  By knowing how many newborns are suffering from drug-dependency, states can be more effective in our treatment and follow up. This bill is the first step towards tackling this issue and is a common-sense solution that will benefit families in Colorado and nationwide.” 

It is difficult to know the exact rate of substance-exposed infants, since several states - including Colorado - have no uniform statewide system to track the number of newborns suffering from prenatal drug-dependency.  Yet, estimates have indicated that upwards of six percent of newborns in Colorado are born drug-dependent.

Heroin abuse and opioid-related deaths in the United States have grown rapidly in recent years. Polis offered two amendments to address the root of the epidemic by supporting research into alternative pain management therapies such as medical marijuana, and encouraging the development of innovative locking technologies for prescription drug vials. Though neither was made in order, the bill represents a first step towards addressing a pervasive problem.

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