The Colorado Hospital Association recently reported that, in 2015, 268 newborns in Colorado had opioid withdrawal symptoms after birth. Opioid withdrawal in newborns is known as neonatal abstinence syndrome, and it is the result of a mother’s opioid use during pregnancy.
The state of Colorado has been hit particularly hard by the opioid abuse epidemic that is sweeping our nation — the Third Congressional District especially. This is why we held roundtable meetings in communities across the Third District last year to hear from the people who are on the front lines of this fight about how the federal government can better support their efforts.
In August, I toured Parkview Hospital in Pueblo and visited the unit that treats babies who are born addicted to opioids and other drugs. The suffering newborns going through drug withdrawals experience is truly heartbreaking.
Fighting this particular part of the opioid epidemic begins with dedicating resources to help vulnerable women and expecting mothers. The bipartisan Comprehensive Addiction and Recovery Act, which was signed into law in July, includes measures to help improve opioid addiction treatment for pregnant women and prevent neonatal abstinence syndrome.
CARA reauthorized the Residential Treatment Program for Prenatal and Postpartum Women and authorized the director of the Center for Substance Abuse Treatment to prioritize federal grant awards for organizations and programs that serve rural areas. The law also authorized the CSAT to develop a pilot program for making competitive grants available to state drug abuse agencies that will allow them to address gaps in treatment services for women. Additionally, the bill directs the comptroller general to submit to Congress a report on neonatal abstinence syndrome that focuses on prevalence and the best practices for treatment.
I believe that the best practices in addressing some of the most complex issues facing our nation are developed when states and communities are given the opportunity to innovate and implement programs that are tailored to their specific needs. In conversations with health care providers, law enforcement officials, education professionals and recovering addicts, I have learned a lot about what works in our communities — investments in drug abuse prevention programs, outpatient community clinics and greater coordination between health care, education and law enforcement professionals at multiple levels.
I plan to continue these conversations and bring the feedback I receive to Washington as we work together to combat the opioid epidemic. I encourage you to share your thoughts, ideas, and experiences with me. Feel free to give my Washington, D.C., office a call at 202-225-4761, or write to me through my website: www.tipton.house.gov.