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5/24/2017 House OKs Serpa bill to require health care providers to report incidents of infants affected by substance abuse
STATE HOUSE — The House of Representatives has passed legislation introduced by Rep. Patricia Serpa (D-Dist. 27, West Warwick, Coventry, Warwick) that would require health care providers involved in the delivery and care of infants to report cases of infants born with or affected by substance abuse.

The legislation (2017-H 5819) would require physicians, nurses and other health care professionals to report to DCYF when a newborn has been exposed to illegal substance abuse, experiences withdrawal symptoms resulting from prenatal drug exposure, or has fetal alcohol spectrum disorder.

“Recent reports of infant deaths, coupled with a surge in newborns with prenatal drug exposure — particularly opiates — is a disturbing trend,” said Representative Serpa, who chairs the House Oversight Committee. “This legislation will provide another layer of protection for infants by bringing the state into compliance with the federal Child Abuse Prevention Treatment Act.”

The federal law requires states to either have a state law or be operating a statewide child abuse and neglect program that includes requirements that health care professionals notify child protective services about infants exposed to substance abuse.

The federal Children’s Bureau recently notified Rhode Island’s Department of Children, Youth and Families that addressing this requirement through DCYF policy would be insufficient and that state legislation was required.

“In addition to protecting Rhode Island’s infants, implementation of this law will also give us an opportunity to examine our response to pregnant women who use drugs and alcohol, including prevention of substance-exposed births,” explained Representative Serpa. “By requiring that DCYF is made aware of these cases, we can not only ensure the safety of the child, but help to support the recovery of the parent as well.”

The legislation now moves to the Senate, where similar legislation (2017-S 0672) has been introduced by Sen. Adam J. Satchell (D-Dist. 9, West Warwick).

For more information, contact:
Daniel Trafford, Publicist
State House Room 20
Providence, RI 02903