The stories behind the heroin and prescription drug epidemic are heartbreaking. The numbers are shocking, with more than 100 Americans dying from overdoses every day. Congress can help, and we must act.
As I travel across Ohio, I’ve seen the devastating impact this epidemic has had on families and local communities. Sadly, babies are too often the victims of this addiction.
Recently, my wife Jane and I visited Rainbow Babies & Children’s Hospital in Cleveland. We toured the hospital’s neonatal intensive-care unit and met with medical experts and addiction specialists who are treating babies born addicted to the drugs their mothers abused during pregnancy.
I’ve been on similar, heartbreaking visits at the Cincinnati Children’s Hospital and St. Rita’s Special Care Nursery in Lima, Ohio.
What I’ve learned from the compassionate nurses and doctors who take these newborns through withdrawal is that the number of babies who have been exposed to heroin or prescription drugs continues to grow. The problem is getting worse, not better.
The Senate is poised to act on the bipartisan Comprehensive Addiction & Recovery Act — also called CARA — legislation I’ve authored with Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse.
This bill is designed to ensure that federal resources are devoted to evidence-based treatment and recovery programs that work. And it tackles this problem of babies born with addiction.
Finally, it creates a pilot program for state substance abuse agencies that allows funds to be used to target women who are addicted to opiates and provide family-based services women in non-residential settings.
Helping these babies is just one aspect of this bill, but a very critical one, as we work to turn the tide in the struggle against addiction.
The good news is that bipartisan momentum is building behind this bill and for Senate action. We have strong support from members on both sides of the aisle. Both Republican and Democrat leaders have lined up to support it.
The abuse of heroin and prescription drugs is having a devastating effect on our local communities. This measure will help more women, more babies, more families and more Americans put their lives back together and achieve their God-given potential. The time to act is now.
Sen. Rob Portman, R-Ohio, serves in the U.S. Senate in Washington, D.C.