Florida senators have jointly introduced legislation in an effort to help increase studies of how neonatal abstinence syndrome, or NAS, affects children.
Sens. Bill Nelson and Marco Rubio filed the bill, called "Protecting Newborns from Opioids Act," on Thursday. It outlines a call to fund research on how NAS affects development, collect statewide data so the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention can spot trends as well as identify the prevalence and reasons why some pregnant women use drugs.
NAS appears as symptoms a couple of hours or days after birth, as shakes, cries and the difficulty of eating or sleeping. It's possible, but not guaranteed, that the babies born to women who use opioids during their pregnancy could be born with NAS.
“When you see an opioid-dependent baby, your heart just cries out," Nelson said in a press release. "This bill will help us better understand this heart-breaking syndrome and what needs to be done to provide these innocent children with the best care possible.”
Between 2015 and 2016, the rate of NAS in Florida newborns rose from 2,487 to 4,215. Johns Hopkins All Children's Hospital has a NAS clinic in Sarasota to provide services to these babies as well as look at how it affects their development.
Rubio said in that press release that "the opioid crisis is wreaking havoc, destroying families and taking lives across our state and nation." The U.S. Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions added language from the bill into the Opioid Crisis Response Act. The bill, Rubio said, could help NAS babies "by ensuring we have the necessary tools to care" for them.