Legislation sponsored by State Rep. Clint Owlett (R-68) designed to protect children of parents struggling with substance abuse disorders has officially been signed into law.
Bill 253, according to Owlett, “would finally establish a dedicated task force whose sole purpose is to identify strategies to help not only infants and children affected by their parents’ substance abuse, but the parents themselves. “.
The goals of the task force would include improving the safety, well-being, and permanency of substance-exposed infants and of you, the children, who have seen the ill effects of parental substance abuse. The task force will also be responsible for making recommendations to prevent infants exposed to the substance and to improve outcomes for pregnant women and working mothers to recover from addiction.
According to data from the Pennsylvania Department of Health, 2,140 infants in Pennsylvania were born with neonatal abstinence syndrome in 2018. NAS is a group of conditions caused by an infant experiencing withdrawal from medications they were exposed to in the uterus. Of the 1,926 infants with NAS who were tested in 2018, 84% tested positive for drug exposure, with the vast majority testing positive for opioids.
“But it’s not just ‘cases’ and ‘statistics’. They are real little human beings who come into the world and deserve all the love and care they need to survive and thrive,” Owlett said. “This bill is intended to support these children and their families. These babies are true innocent victims of the opioid abuse crisis. We have the data that shows how pervasive this problem is, but it’s worthless if we don’t use it to help these children.
Owlett’s bill passed unanimously in both houses of the legislature and was signed into law by Gov. Tom Wolf on Wednesday.