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Reps. Manning, Trone, Kuster, Thompson, and Guthrie Introduce Bipartisan Legislation to Support Mothers and their Infants Affected by the Opioid Epidemic

November 10, 2021

Washington, D.C. – Congresswoman Kathy Manning (NC-06)led Representatives Trone, Kuster, Thompson, and Guthrie to introduce the bipartisan Supporting Healthy Mothers and Infants Act of 2021 to support mothers and their infants who are born with Neonatal Abstinence Syndrome (NAS).

This legislation improves the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC) to better respond to the devastating effect the opioid epidemic has had on women and newborns. Since 2002, the incidence of NAS, which includes a number of symptoms babies experience when they undergo withdrawal from opioids in the days after birth, has increased five-fold.

“Every fifteen minutes, a baby is born suffering from Neonatal Abstinence Syndrome. For too many mothers, they lack access to resources and support to overcome substance abuse disorder and protect their children’s health,” said Congresswoman Manning. “I’m introducing the Supporting Healthy Mothers and Infants Act to ensure that mothers have the resources and support to protect their babies’ lives during and after pregnancy.”

“Addiction is a disease, but far too often it’s perceived as a moral failing. For expectant mothers suffering from substance use disorder, this stigma only makes matters worse,” said Congressman Trone. “The Supporting Healthy Mothers and Infants Act will provide women much-needed resources to help protect their child’s health during their pregnancy. It couldn’t be simpler: this bill will save lives.”

“Our country’s addiction crisis has been exacerbated by the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, and as the opioid epidemic continues to impact communities across New Hampshire and our nation, there has never been a greater need to give families the tools they need to move past substance use disorder and lead healthy lives,” said Congresswoman Kuster, founder and co-chair of the Bipartisan Addiction and Mental Health Task Force. “I am proud to help introduce this bipartisan legislation to help mothers and children affected by opioid addiction work toward a bright and healthy future. I look forward to the Bipartisan Addiction and Mental Health Task Force’s continued work to help communities affected by this crisis succeed.”

“The opioid epidemic affects communities regardless of race, location, or socioeconomic status and it is particularly heart wrenching to see newborn babies suffering from opioid withdrawal,” Congressman Thompson said. “This bill will help mothers address substance abuse and support our most vulnerable population – the unborn – by creating more opportunities for treatment, education and prevention.”

“The opioid crisis sadly continues to devastate families and harm Kentuckians, including the youngest and most vulnerable. The Supporting Healthy Mothers and Infants Act provides outreach support and educational resources for mothers and their infants, who have been impacted by substance use disorders. The COVID-19 pandemic has exacerbated the substance use disorder crisis in the United States. We must ensure Americans, especially pregnant women, new moms and their infants, have the support needed as we work to turn the tide on the opioid crisis and other addictive drugs,” said Congressman Guthrie.

“The opioid epidemic has impacted millions of Americans and their families for far too long,” said Rev. Douglas Greenaway, President and CEO of the National WIC Association (NWA). “Due to the harmful effects on infant development of opioid use during pregnancy, WIC clinics screen for signs of withdrawal and counsel participants on appropriate breastfeeding and nutrition strategies. Families rely on this support from WIC to protect the health of their babies. This bipartisan legislation would advance WIC’s work to support families affected by opioid use. It’s a critical step in the right direction.”

Specifically, the Supporting Healthy Mothers and Infants Act of 2021:

  • Removes stigmatizing language in the Child Nutrition Act related to substance use disorder;
  • Instructs the Secretary of Health and Human Services and Secretary of Agriculture to collaborate in the development of evidence-based nutrition education materials for WIC-eligible pregnant women and caregivers to infants impacted by NAS;
  • Ensures WIC conducts outreach to those who may be eligible for the program and are impacted by substance use disorder;
  • Makes any nutrition education and training materials developed available to state agencies through an online clearinghouse.

This bill is endorsed by National WIC Association, 1,000 Days, Association of State Public Health Nutritionists, Coalition on Human Needs, MomsRising, National Advocacy Center of the Sisters of the Good Shepherd, Congregation of Our Lady of Charity of the Good Shepherd, March of Dimes, National Association of Counties, NETWORK Lobby for Catholic Social Justice, and Society for Nutrition Education and Behavior.

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