One of the most heartbreaking situations regarding substance abuse for some people can be when a baby is born addicted to drugs due to the mother’s dependency. Not only are the risk for birth defects very high, both with many prescription drugs as well as illicit drugs, but the baby is also then forced to go through withdrawal in such an early, fragile state.
One state that is searching for ways to reduce the number of women who are abusing drugs is Tennessee. Governor Bill Haslam has just signed into law a new measure that seeks to divert women int treatment programs who test positive for drugs – or face being charged with a misdemeanor.
Like many other areas, Tennessee continues to see a high number of babies addicted to drugs at birth, with painkillers being the biggest problem.
In a story featured on a local news cast, Sullivan County District Attorney Barry Staubus said, “We’re hoping by having this law is one hold mothers accountable, but on the other to give them an incentive to get into a program, but if they refuse or they don’t successfully complete they’ll be held accountable for that.”
Some health care providers who were originally opposed to the bill have come around in support of it, as they see that something must change to reduce the problem.
Dr. Doug Springer, President of the Tennessee Medical Association said, “The misdemeanor means it can be expunged by a judge, it means that the DHS doesn’t take your baby away and it has nothing to do with an application for a job because it doesn’t interfere with your job aspects and prospects and that’s really important.”
With the new law set to take effect at the beginning of July, do you think it will help get more addicted mothers the help they need? The Administration intends to review the effects of the law after two years and evaluate its effectiveness for its intended outcome – which is healthier mothers and babies – not punishment.