State Task Force Unveils Policy on Drug Addicted Babies
December 11, 2012 | WMFE - The state task force on prescription drug abuse by pregnant women is finalizing its recommendations to present to the Florida Legislature. The panel held one of its final meetings at the Capitol on Monday.
Last year, Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi assembled the task force. It’s made up of agency heads, lawmakers and doctors and is addressing one of Bondi’s priority issues: the high number of babies in Florida who are born addicted to prescription drugs or whose parents are prescription drug abusers.
“This is a problem all over our country.” Bondi said. “So, we really can make a difference, not only in Florida, but for saving lives and money throughout the country.”
Prescription drug abuse is not only bad for babies’ health, but it’s also a drain on the state budget. On Monday, David Wilkins, the Secretary of the State Department of Children and Families said about half the kids placed in foster care are removed because of substance abuse.
“When you look at our removal rate, almost 8,000 children are being removed on an annual basis because of substance abuse.”
Wilkins says removing those children adds up to a cost of $160 million dollars for the state every year.
He says he’d like to recommend millions more in state funding for intervention and treatment services for drug-addicted parents.
That way, Wilkins says, the state would ultimately save money because it would cut down on the number of children who have to be removed.
Another proposal comes from task force member Joe Negron, a Republican State Senator from Palm City.
Negron floated the idea of creating criminal immunity for pregnant women who seek treatment for their prescription drug abuse.
“If I’m sitting there evaluating a medical problem and I think there are
criminal implications for whatever medical problem I have, now I’ve complicated the situation and it may make me less likely to seek medical care.”
Negron says, he wouldn’t want to prevent law enforcement from doing their jobs but rather make it so a pregnant woman’s call for help would not be basis enough to start a criminal investigation.
All of the task force’s suggestions will be finalized at a future meeting before being presented to the state Legislature during its session in the spring.