WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-OH) outlined new, bipartisan, bicameral legislation that would help newborns suffering from neonatal abstinence syndrome (NAS), a withdrawal condition often caused by use of opioids and other addictive substances in pregnant women. Brown introduced the Caring Recovery for Infants and Babies (CRIB) Act, legislation that would recognize residential pediatric recovery facilities as providers under Medicaid, allowing them to bill Medicaid for the services they offer. The bill does not cost additional money but allows babies to receive quality care in the best setting.
“There isn’t a community in Ohio that hasn’t been touched by the opioid abuse epidemic, and we are doing all we can to fight it,” Brown said. “Too many victims of this epidemic are the infants born to mothers who struggle with addiction. One promising new option to care for newborns suffering from withdrawal is a residential pediatric recovery facility, which gives specialized care in an environment conducive to treating newborns with NAS, along with counseling for mothers and families. My bipartisan legislation would expand options for care for the thousands of babies who need specialized treatment by recognizing these residential pediatric recovery facilities as providers under Medicaid. The opioid epidemic is causing real, significant damage to our communities – we must do all we can to help the most vulnerable among us suffering as a result of the cycle of addiction.”
During a news conference call, Brown was joined by Jill Kingston and Deanna Murphy from Brigid’s Path, a NAS treatment facility that is about to open in Dayton. In addition to being co-executive directors of Brigid’s Path, Kingston is a foster mother to NAS babies and Murphy was a NAS baby.
“We are looking forward to providing quality care in a lower acuity setting while saving taxpayer dollars,” Murphy said. “We believe the approach should be a combination of medical care for the baby in a home-like environment, while providing non-judgmental support for families as they establish a safe and healthy home.”
Recent studies show that cases of NAS have tripled over the past decade. In Ohio, NAS increased six-fold between 2004-2011, from 14 cases per 10,000 live births in 2004 to 88 cases per 10,000 live births in 2011. Because newborns with NAS require specialized care, caring for these babies can result in longer hospital stays and increased costs. These babies are usually treated in the neonatal intensive care unit (NICU), and treatment costs are more than five times the cost of treating other newborns.
The Ohio Department of Mental Health and Addiction Services reported that treating newborns with NAS was associated with $70 million in hospital charges and almost 19,000 days in the hospital in 2011 alone. Those numbers are likely much higher now, given the increase in NAS over the past five years. But with the bright lights and loud noises, the NICU is not always the best place for newborns suffering from withdrawal.
The CRIB Act would allow Medicaid to cover these services in residential pediatric recovery facilities in addition to hospitals. An alternative setting to a NICU, residential pediatric recovery facilities offer specialized care and an environment conducive to treating newborns with NAS, as well as counseling for mothers and families that emphasizes family bonding. Brown’s legislation is cosponsored by U.S. Sen. Shelley Moore Capito (R-WV) and the companion bill will be introduced by U.S. Reps. Mike Turner (R-OH-10) and Tim Ryan (D-OH-13).
Brown is a champion for improving children’s health in Ohio. Earlier this month, he introduced the Nurturing and Supporting Healthy Babies Act, a bipartisan bill to examine the rising rate and treatment costs of NAS. The bill would expand current knowledge of NAS and how to care for NAS babies. The legislation directs the U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO) to identify any federal obstacles to care for NAS babies by examining the prevalence of NAS in the United States, the number of NAS babies covered by Medicaid, the types of treatment for NAS, and the costs associated with such treatment.
Last year, the Protecting Our Infants Act, which Brown cosponsored to help prevent and treat prenatal opioid abuse and NAS, was signed into law. In 2014, his landmark legislation to battle against the rise in infant mortality was signed into law by President Obama. The Sudden Unexpected Death Data Enhancement and Awareness Act will build on existing activities at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) to improve upon the quality and consistency of data collected during death scene investigations and autopsies to better inform prevention and intervention efforts related to stillbirths, Sudden Unexpected Infant Deaths (SUID), and Sudden Unexplained Deaths in Childhood (SUDC). This collaboration with the states to enhance current methods of data collection across existing surveillance systems will enable doctors and researchers to better track and prevent these tragic losses.
Brown also introduced the Healthy Maternity and Obstetric Medicine Act (Healthy MOM Act). This legislation would create a special enrollment period for pregnant women who need to enroll in or switch insurance coverage outside of the traditional open-enrollment period. Sen. Brown recognizes that women don’t time their pregnancies around arbitrary insurance open-enrollment periods, and these individuals deserve access to the care and services that best fit their maternity and prenatal needs.
Brown continues his fight to help treat and prevent addiction. A bipartisan bill cosponsored by Brown that would enable health care providers to treat larger numbers of patients struggling with addiction to opioids passed out of the U.S. Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions (HELP) Committee in March. The Recovery Enhancement for Addiction Treatment (TREAT) Act would update U.S. law to enable qualified physicians to treat larger numbers of patients struggling with addiction and, for the first time, allow certain nurse practitioners and physician assistants to provide supervised, medication-assisted treatment (MAT) for patients. President Obama recently proposed doubling the number of patients a physician can treat using MAT, but this bill would go a step future and allow certain nurse practitioners and physician assistants to treat patients. The bill now awaits action in the full U.S. Senate.
In February, Brown also introduced the Heroin and Prescription Drug Abuse Prevention and Reduction Act, which represents a comprehensive approach to address the entire spectrum of addiction. His bill would help address the opioid epidemic from prevention to recovery, filling in gaps that would help: boost prevention, improve tools for crisis response for those who fall through the cracks, expand access to treatment, and provide support for lifelong recovery.