Jan. 27, 2022

HARRISBURG – Calling it a major step forward in supporting the forgotten victims of the state’s opioid epidemic, Rep. Clint Owlett (R-Tioga/Bradford/Potter) today announced his bill to help children of parents struggling with substance abuse disorders has been signed into law.

“This bill will finally establish a dedicated task force whose sole focus is identifying strategies to help not only infants and children impacted by their parents’ drug abuse but the parents themselves,” Owlett said. “We’ve seen too many fatalities and near-fatalities of infants and young children linked to parental substance abuse, not to mention cases of child abuse and neglect. 

“But these are not just ‘cases’ and ‘statistics.’ They are real, little human beings who come into this world deserving of all the love and care they need to survive and thrive,” Owlett continued. “This bill is about supporting those children and their families.” 

House Bill 253 would establish a task force to focus on the impact of the opioid abuse epidemic on children. 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.

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.

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.

“These babies are the truly innocent victims of the opioid abuse crisis,” Owlett said. “We have the data that demonstrates how pervasive this problem is, but it’s not worth anything if we don’t use it to help these children.”

Representative Clint Owlett
68th District
Pennsylvania House of Representatives