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[ATG] AG Zoeller, Rx drug task force join urgent call for uniform screening & diagnosis of newborns with NAS
Start Date: 2/19/2014 All Day
End Date: 2/19/2014
Entry Description

INDIANAPOLIS – Indiana Attorney General Greg Zoeller and the Indiana Prescription Drug Abuse Task Force today voiced support for legislation aimed at helping babies withdrawing from legal or illicit drugs.

A newborn diagnosed with NAS means they were exposed to drugs while in the mother’s womb and suffer withdrawal symptoms which could include respiratory complications, low birth weight, feeding difficulties and seizures.

Nationally, the overall rate of newborns diagnosed with Neonatal Abstinence Syndrome (NAS) tripled over the past decade. Estimates are that in 2009, approximately one infant born per hour in the United States exhibited signs of drug withdrawal.

“Our public health experts – the doctors, nurses, medical professionals and regulatory authorities – believe that Indiana should do a more consistent and comprehensive job of screening for Neonatal Abstinence Syndrome, in order to promote better health and treatment outcomes for babies born dependent,” Zoeller said. “In order to accomplish this task, we need to establish a standard protocol for diagnosing NAS, collecting data on it, and confidentially reporting it to the Indiana State Department of Health.”

New legislation, authored by State Sen. Vaneta Becker of Evansville, would require development of a standard protocol for NAS which includes defining the diagnosis, developing a process by which to collect data on NAS cases and determining the method for confidentially reporting the information to the Indiana State Department of Health. The data reported to ISDH would not be provided to law enforcement or child services. 

Zoeller, who serves as co-chair of the Indiana Prescription Drug Abuse Task Force, said Indiana does not adequately or consistently track NAS cases which hinders the medical community from identifying the true scope of the problem and developing better treatment options. Zoeller testified today during a House Committee on Family, Children and Human Affairs hearing in support of Senate Bill 408. A vote is scheduled to be taken on the bill and a proposed amendment at the committee’s next hearing on Monday, Feb. 24.

“An alarming number of infants are born with birth defects or drug dependencies because their mothers were abusing drugs during pregnancy,” Becker said. “Unfortunately, we don’t have the necessary data to address the severity of this issue in Indiana, or determine how best to prevent it. I hope SB 408 will help us solve this serious public health issue, and keep both mothers and infants safe.”

In 2012, Zoeller launched the task force to bring together state legislators, law enforcement, health officials, pharmacists, state and local agencies and education providers to identify and address the state’s prescription drug abuse epidemic. The task force includes a NAS subcommittee that has been studying the issue for more than a year. A number of key stakeholders, including Dr. Maria Del Rio Hoover of St. Mary’s Health System, were convened to discuss possible solutions to combat this issue which included creating a standard protocol for diagnosing NAS and reporting the information to the state.

“I am very pleased we’re using local input from our hospitals,” said State Rep. Gail Riecken (D-Evansville). “Dr. Maria Del Rio Hoover, from Evansville, has played a critical role in Indiana’s efforts to develop a policy enabling the State Department of Health to collect NAS data from hospitals to utilize for research on prevention and treatments that can be used. We are passionate about finding ways to help these newborns, so they will not experience drug dependency, seizures, slow weight gain, and other symptoms associated with NAS.”

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*Please click here for a link to Senate Bill 408.


Contact Information:
Name: Erin Reece
Phone: 317.232.0168
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Entry Type:
Press Release
Entry Category:
  • Announcements
  • IN.gov Category:
  • About Indiana
  • Agency Name
    Attorney General

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