Jun. 08, 2021

HARRISBURG – Legislation that seeks to help children in Pennsylvania with parents who are struggling with drug addiction passed unanimously in the House of Representatives on Monday. Rep. Tarah Toohil (R-Luzerne) is the prime co-sponsor of House Bill 253, which will now be considered by the Senate.

The proposal would establish a task force to examine the impact of the opioid abuse epidemic on Pennsylvania’s youngest citizens. Objectives of the task force would include improving the safety, well-being and permanency of substance-exposed infants and other young children adversely affected by their parents’ substance abuse disorders.

“This legislation addresses the serious problem of babies born in withdrawal after being exposed to substance abuse by their mothers while in the womb,” said Toohil. “We are trying to track these children and find out what impact this drug exposure has on them. In homes where drugs are present, there is often also the risk of child abuse and neglect. We really need to be doing more as a state to protect these babies.”

To view or download a broadcast-quality video of Toohil comments on the bill, visit here.

The task force would also be directed to identify strategies and make short- and long-term recommendations to prioritize the prevention of substance-exposed infants; to improve outcomes for pregnant and parenting women striving to recover from addiction; and to promote the health, safety and permanency of substance-exposed infants and other young children at risk of child abuse and neglect, or placement in foster care due to parental alcohol and drug abuse.

“We want mothers to be able to reach out for help if they need it. There are resources out there. But, in order to improve those resources, or expand upon them, we need to know what is working in Pennsylvania and what is not,” Toohil added.

According to statistics from the Pennsylvania Department of Health, there were 2,140 infants born in 2018 with neonatal abstinence syndrome (NAS). Of all NAS cases, 90% were tested for laboratory evidence of prenatal drug exposure, and 84% of those with completed laboratory tests had a positive lab result. Of those, 85% of the infants tested positive for some form of opioids; 68% for drugs associated with Medication-Assisted Treatment; and 22% for opiates, oxycodone or fentanyl.

Representative Tarah Toohil
116th Legislative District
Pennsylvania House of Representatives

Contact: Rep. Toohil’s Office
RepToohil.com / Facebook.com/RepToohil