Thursday, October 24, 2013
Ind. Law - " Task force targets pregnant drug abusers: Group may push for law that offers them protections if they seek treatment"
That is the headline to this Oct. 23rd story by Maureen Hayden of CNHI, here in the Kokomo Tribune. Some quotes:
INDIANAPOLIS – Alarmed by the number of infants in Indiana born addicted to prescription painkillers, a task force of medical and legal experts may push for a new law that would provide some protection for drug-abusing pregnant women who voluntarily seek and stay in treatment for their addiction.Today the NY Times has a lengthy story by Erik Eckholm headed "Case Explores Rights of Fetus Versus Mother" on a law in Wisconsin. Some quotes:
Such a measure is still being considered by the Attorney General’s Prescription Drug Abuse Task Force, which pushed for the new state rules that call for drug testing of pain-medication patients and closer monitoring of those patients by doctors.
At a meeting Monday, members of the legislative Commission on Mental Health and Addiction heard from task force coordinator Natalie Robinson, who said the incidence of babies born dependent on narcotics may have reached epidemic levels in Indiana. * * *
[The Prescription Drug Abuse Task Force] plans to push for more legislative remedies in the next session. Among them: requiring all health providers to report cases of neonatal abstinence syndrome to the state health department; and regulating the popular prescription pain-killer,Tramadol, as a schedule IV drug. That would increase the criminal penalties for abusing it or diverting it for someone else’s use.
The task force is still considering a law like the one passed recently in Tennessee that would give pregnant women some incentives to confess their drug addiction to their doctor and get into drug treatment programs. The Tennessee law, called the Safe Harbor Act, moves a pregnant woman to the front of the line for available spots in drug treatment programs and guarantees her newborn won’t be taken away by the Department of Children’s Services solely because of the drug use, as long as the woman continues in treatment and the baby is well cared for.
“We want to encourage these women to do the right thing,” Robinson said.
She said drug-abusing, pregnant mothers too often avoid getting prenatal care because they fear criminal prosecution and having their infants taken away from them.
The Tennessee legislation was supported by the state medical association, which made prescription drug abuse a priority among its public health issues. The Tennessee law sets out a series of conditions that the pregnant woman must meet in reporting her drug abuse to her doctor and following up with treatment. It doesn’t prevent the state from filing an action to remove the child from the custody of the mother or other caregiver if it’s determined the baby isn’t properly cared for.
One significant obstacle, identified by the Indiana task force, is what Robinson called the “extreme shortage” of drug treatment services in the state and healthcare providers who will treat pregnant drug abusers.
Under a Wisconsin law known as the “cocaine mom” act when it was adopted in 1998, child-welfare authorities can forcibly confine a pregnant woman who uses illegal drugs or alcohol “to a severe degree,” and who refuses to accept treatment.
Now, with Ms. Beltran’s detention as Exhibit A, that law is being challenged as unconstitutional in a federal suit filed this month, the first in federal court to challenge this kind of fetal protection law. Its opponents are hoping to set an important precedent in the continuing tug of war over the rights of pregnant women and legal status of the unborn.
Wisconsin is one of four states, along with Minnesota, Oklahoma and South Dakota, with laws specifically granting authorities the power to confine pregnant women for substance abuse. But many other states use civil-confinement, child-protection or assorted criminal laws to force women into treatment programs or punish them for taking drugs.
Posted by Marcia Oddi on October 24, 2013 10:27 AM
Posted to Indiana Law