House nears vote on task force to help babies born to prescription drug-addicted mothers

By | 02.15.12 | 6:39 pm

State Rep. Kelli Stargel, R-Lakeland (Pic by Mark Foley, via myfloridahouse.gov)

A bill that would create a task force to look into ways to address an epidemic of babies born to women who are addicted to prescription medications moved closer to a final vote on the House floor today.

The bill — which was sponsored by in the state Senate by Sens. Joe Negron and Mike Fasano, and in the House by state Rep. Kelli Stargel — would create a task force that would “examine and analyze the emerging problem of neonatal withdrawal syndrome as it pertains to prescription drugs,” a Senate staff analysis says.

According to the House analysis:

Due to the prescription drug abuse problem in Florida, health care providers and facilities are experiencing a sharp increase in the number of babies born with Neonatal Withdrawal Syndrome.

The bill requires the Task Force to collect and analyze data, examine ways to increase public awareness, and explore possible solutions to the problem. The bill also specifies membership and other duties of the Task Force. The Task Force is required to submit an interim report and a final report to the Speaker of the House of Representatives and the President of the Senate containing policy recommendations to address the problem.

As my colleague Virginia Chamlee and I reported last November, at the same time lawmakers were fighting pill mills and prescription drug abuse last year, they also began cutting funding for programs created to help pregnant women who are already addicted to prescription drugs. Advocates warned that this could lead to an epidemic of miscarriages and unhealthy newborns in the state.

This bill, which has been making its way through both the state House and Senate, would require the task force to submit a report of its recommendations by Jan. 15, 2013.

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