Harrisburg − January 24, 2022 – The Pennsylvania Senate Aging and Youth Committee today unanimously approved Senator Lisa Boscola’s legislation (Senate Bill 936) that would mandate the reporting of any infant born with an addiction to opioids.
“My bill would ensure the coordination of reporting through the Department of Health, which would track that information and break it down by county,” said Boscola (D-Lehigh/Northampton). “It’s critical as a state to use this reporting to be more aggressive in combating the opioid epidemic where it is located. This data collected as required by my legislation would help us understand the communities most impacted by the epidemic.”
Prior to Governor Wolf’s signing of the first opioid disaster declaration back in 2018, Pennsylvania had no real-time reporting requirement beyond a report to the Department of Health.
“With the conclusion of the Opioid Disaster Declaration of Emergency, there is a need for statutory authority for the Department of Health to track and report on this information,” Boscola noted. “My bill aims to resolve any uncertainty and mandate the reporting and tracking of this information.”
As a result of the end of the emergency declaration, the state will not be able to continue to assess how widespread the problem is, whether the problem is worsening and what kinds of resources are needed and where. Under Senator Boscola’s proposal, mandatory reporting of babies born with an addiction to the state Department of Health would continue to be a tool for analyzing and understanding where the opioid crisis is growing.
Boscola said other states have implemented such a reporting mandate and have seen a drop in neonatal abstinence syndrome (NAS). The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has reported that nearly one in five pregnant women fill an opioid medication prescription during pregnancy and a child is born with NAS every 25 minutes. In a study of 28 states, the rate of NAS has skyrocketed by 300 percent between 1999 and 2013.
“The children are the youngest and most innocent victims of this crisis,” Boscola added. “They are born victims to addiction, and without any voice and any say to their addiction. Knowing where these infants are located or if addiction is on the rise, holding steady or even declining is important to know to better utilize our resources where they can be effective.”
The Northampton County lawmaker added that addicted babies face a far greater risk of premature birth, low birthweight, sleep issues, growth problems, seizures and tremors.
While Chair of the Senate Democratic Policy Committee, Boscola held hearings throughout the state on the opioid addiction crisis. The committee took extensive testimony from doctors, health officials, law enforcement officers, addicts, family members and others on the crisis and recommendations for combatting the epidemic.
Boscola introduced Senate Bill 936 on November 5, 2021. Her bill now goes to the full Senate for consideration.