WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Sens. Sherrod Brown (D-OH), Rob Portman (R-OH), Shelley Moore Capito (R-WV), Angus King (I-ME), Joe Manchin (D-WV), Dean Heller (R-NV), Bob Casey (D-PA), and Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI) today introduced 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. 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. Similar to the earlier version of the CRIB Act the Senators introduced at this time last year, the latest version of this 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.

“With the right care, newborns suffering from withdrawal have every shot of growing up healthy. The CRIB Act will help ensure moms and babies can access care at the facility that best meets their needs, including residential treatment facilities that specialize in giving them specialized care,” said Brown.

“The Ohio Department of Health estimates that about 84 infants are being treated for drug withdrawal in Ohio hospitals every day,” said Portman. “We must ensure women who are pregnant have access to care and treatment for a substance use disorder. My Comprehensive Addiction and Recovery Act (CARA) enacted important changes in the law to ensure that hospitals followed a plan to safe care when babies were born dependent on opioids or other substances. I am also excited about a pilot under CARA that will fund residential treatment for women that allows babies to stay in a safe environment with their mother, instead of being removed from the home. The CRIB Act will provide another opportunity to ensure babies are given the care they need to thrive and I will continue to help lead efforts to make this bill a reality.”

“It’s heartbreaking to see the pain and suffering of infants who have been exposed to drugs before they’re even born. Unfortunately, the number of infants with Neonatal Abstinence Syndrome continues to grow in West Virginia,” said Capito. “The CRIB Act will help ensure these babies have access to the specialized care and range of treatment options they need to overcome the awful effects of this problem and put them on the path to recovery.”

“The pain inflicted by the opioid epidemic knows no limits, and spares no member of our society – not even our newborns,” said King. “An estimated 1 in every 12 babies born is Maine enters this world with drugs in their system; that is a heartbreaking statistic that we cannot accept. We need bipartisan solutions like the CRIB Act to increase access to the care that can make a real impact on the health of our children, families and communities.”

“In West Virginia we are exceptionally proud of the work Lily’s Place is doing to provide specialized care to infants born addicted to opioids. By allowing Medicaid to cover these kinds of healthcare services, the CRIB Act will expand access for West Virginia children and families ensuring every child has the opportunity to grow up healthy and strong,” said Manchin.

“One of the most distressing and heartbreaking aspects of the opioid epidemic is the fact that every 25 minutes a baby is born with neonatal abstinence syndrome. Congress can step in to ensure that newborns suffering from withdrawal have access to treatment,” said Heller. “I’m proud to join my colleagues in introducing the bipartisan CRIB Act, which will help babies suffering from addiction recover.”

“While we’ve seen some progress in the fight to protect our children during the opioid epidemic, there’s still much more to be done,” said Casey. “This bipartisan bill works to ensure that our most vulnerable infants can receive the support they need where they need it, and guarantees that they can continue to receive this care past their first birthday.” 

“Earlier this year, I visited Rhode Island’s 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.

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 the 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. The CRIB Act, which Brown has been pushing since 2016, would allow Medicaid to reimburse for covered Medicaid services in residential pediatric recovery facilities in addition to hospitals.

Studies show that cases of NAS have tripled over the past decade. In Ohio alone, 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. In 2015, the Ohio Department of Health released data that there had been 2,174 hospital admissions for NAS, and reported that an average of 84 infants were being treated for drug withdrawal by Ohio hospitals every day. Because newborns with NAS require specialized care, caring for these babies can result in longer hospital stays and increased costs. The Ohio Department of Health reported that treating newborns with NAS in 2015 alone was associated with more than $133 million in health-system costs.

Dayton, Ohio is home to Brigid’s Path, a residential treatment facility for babies with NAS.