May 23, 2018

Whitehouse Introduces Bipartisan Bill to Support Treatment for Babies Exposed to Opioids

CRIB Act would provide more support to treat babies exposed to opioids with no additional cost to taxpayers

Washington, D.C. – U.S. Senator Sheldon Whitehouse has joined Senators Sherrod Brown (D-OH), Rob Portman (R-OH), Shelley Moore Capito (R-WV), Angus King (I-ME), Joe Manchin (D-WV), Dean Heller (D-NV), and Bob Casey (D-PA) to introduce bipartisan legislation to be considered by the Senate Finance Committee that would help newborns suffering from withdrawal recover in the best care setting and provide support for their families.

“Earlier this year, I visited Women & Infants Hospital where they know firsthand that some of the most painful stories from the opioid crisis are of babies who come into the world battling opioid withdrawal.  These infants start life in a very difficult place through no fault of their own.  That’s why we’ve introduced this legislation to help them get the specialized care they need,” said Whitehouse.

The Caring Recovery for Infants and Babies (CRIB) Act would allow Medicaid to cover health care services provided to infants in residential pediatric recovery facilities in addition to hospitals.  The legislation would clarify that babies receiving services in residential pediatric recovery centers can continue to receive services after one year of age, and provide for activities to encourage caregiver-infant bonding.

Neonatal abstinence syndrome (NAS) is a withdrawal condition often caused by use of opioids and other addictive substances in pregnant women.  Babies with NAS are usually treated in the neonatal intensive care unit (NICU), where treatment costs can be more than five times the cost of treating other newborns.  With bright lights and loud noises, the NICU is not always the best place for newborns suffering from withdrawal.  Residential pediatric recovery facilities, an alternative setting to a NICU, offer specialized care and an environment conducive to treating newborns with NAS, as well as counseling for mothers and families that emphasizes caregiver-infant bonding. 

In Rhode Island, 96 babies were diagnosed with NAS in 2016.  The rate of infants in Rhode Island born with NAS more than doubled between 2006 and 2016, according to Rhode Island Kids Count.  According to the Rhode Island Department of Health, 323 Rhode Islanders died of accidental drug overdoses in 2017.

Whitehouse is a national leader in combatting the opioid crisis.  Whitehouse and Portman co-authored the landmark bipartisan Comprehensive Addiction and Recovery Act (CARA), the sweeping legislation guiding the federal response to the opioid epidemic, which was signed into law in 2016.  Earlier this year, Whitehouse and Portman introduced CARA 2.0 to implement further policy changes and authorize another $1 billion to address the public health crisis, including $160 million for programs that support expectant and new mothers and babies struggling with opioid addiction.


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Meaghan McCabe, (202) 224-2921