SCHUMER TO LAY OUT ACTION PLAN TO USE FUNDS FROM JUST-PASSED FEDERAL BUDGET TO REDUCE NUMBER OF STATEN ISLAND BABIES BORN DEPENDENT ON PAINKILLERS & OPIOIDS; NUMBER OF DRUG-DEPENDENT BABIES ON SI HAS INCREASED 34 PERCENT SINCE 2009; JUST-PASSED FED BUDGET PROVIDES NEW INCREASE IN FED DOLLARS TO HELP ADDRESS UPSURGE IN DRUG-DEPENDENT BABIES; STATEN ISLAND HOSPITALS RELY ON FED FUNDS TO SUPPORT THEIR EFFORTS
Just-Passed Fed Budget Bill Includes Increased Funds To Fight Heroin Epidemic; Schumer-Backed $47M Investment And Now Calls On Feds To Direct Emergency Dollars Towards Drug-Dependent Baby Crisis On SI & Across New York State
Schumer, at RUMC, Calls For an Emergency Surge of Federal ‘Substance Abuse & Mental Health Services Administration’ (SAMHSA) Funding to Be Used Specifically By Hospitals To Help Prevent & Address Growing Neonatal Abstinence Syndrome; Increased Funds Will Allow SI Hospitals To Make The Case For More Dollars To Beat Back Epidemic
Schumer: Alarming Increase In Number of Heroin & Rx Drug-Dependent Infants On SI & Across NYS Demands That Feds Deliver Babies New Hope
Standing at RUMC, U.S. Senator Charles E. Schumer today laid out an action plan to use federal funds from the just-passed federal appropriations bill in an effort to reduce the number of Staten Island babies born addicted to prescription drugs. Schumer will call on the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA)—which is a part of the federal Department of Health and Humans Services (HHS)—to use its increase in federal dollars from the just-passed appropriations bill to address the alarming trend of drug-dependent babies on Staten Island, amongst other places. A baby born addicted to prescription drugs, like painkillers and opioids, has what is known as Neonatal Abstinence Syndrome (NAS). Moreover, according to a recent study conducted by the U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO), cases of NAS have tripled. In New York, the rate of infants born with NAS increased by 58 percent from 2009-2014. While newborns and their mothers are suffering from addiction across the state, Staten Island has been hit harder than others. In 2014, 27 babies on Staten Island were born with drug-dependencies. According to a Newsday analysis, from 2009 to 2014, the change in the addicted birthrate on Staten Island was 34.05 percent. The appropriations bill recently allocated $47million towards the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration’s (SAMHSA), the entity within the Department of Health and Human Services dedicated to reducing the impact of substance abuse and mental illness across the country. Now that this federal funding has been allocated, Schumer is calling on SAMHSA to dedicate a portion to help treat, prevent and promote public awareness of NAS.
Schumer stood at RUMC with Daniel J. Messina, President & CEO of RUMC; and Dr. Anthony Barone, Director of the Neonatal Intensive Unit at RUMC; and Assemblyman Michael Cusick.
“It’s become a sad fact that the latest victims of the prescription drug crisis in this country are the most vulnerable in our society, innocent babies,” said Schumer. “Thousands of infants are born each year with drug dependencies, and now that we have this federal funding in the budget, we must act by creating an emergency allocation of funding to help localities—like Staten Island-- address and fight this tragically growing trend.”
Daniel J. Messina, Ph.D., FACHE, LNHA, President & CEO of Richmond University Medical Center said, "Our medical staff has been on the front lines of combating the opiate epidemic on Staten Island and our Neonatal Intensive Care Unit has been in the vanguard of treating babies born with Neonatal Abstinence Syndrome. Senator Schumer has been the strongest possible advocate as the opiate epidemic emerged in our community and we are heartened by his continued support for the medical needs of our community as we meet this challenge head-on."
“The heroin and pill epidemic has always affected our entire community whether it's the person addicted, their family, or the victim of a crime. The far reach of this epidemic also touches our most vulnerable and innocent. Babies born dependent on drugs are victims of the epidemic it is vital that we help in any way we can. The funding Senator Schumer has secured will provide the help needed to ensure a future for these innocent victims,” said Assemblyman Michael Cusick.
Neonatal Abstinence Syndrome (NAS) is the withdrawal response that occurs when an infant is exposed, in utero, to addictive drugs being taken by the mother. NAS symptoms are characterized by irritability, tremors, hypertonicity, vomiting, and diarrhea. Schumer noted the devastating impact that NAS has on babies and their development. Drug exposure in utero has been shown to reduce birth weight and head circumference in infants. There are also long-term cognitive and behavioral problems associated with infants who have NAS. Beyond the devastating personal toll, the study conducted by AMA in 2012 showed that the public cost of NAS is growing exponentially. In 2000, total hospital charges associated with NAS amounted to $190 million; by 2009, they had risen to $720 million, and about three quarters of these costs are financed through Medicaid. According to the GAO, NAS infants stayed in the hospital on average 16 days with an average hospital bill of $53,000.
According to a study from the National Institute on Drug Abuse, between 2000-2012, the United States saw a significant increase in babies born with NAS. Approximately 21,732 newborns with NAS were born during this time. And, according to a recent Reuters investigation, there were more than 27,000 drug-dependent babies born in 2013. The Reuters investigation found that every 19 minutes a baby is born with NAS in the United States.
New York is no exception to this growing epidemic. In 2014, 27 addicted babies were born on Staten Island. According to a Newsday analysis, the change in the addicted birthrate on Staten Island grew 34.05 percent from 2009 to 2014. When compared to the rest of New York City, Staten Island had the highest change in the addicted birthrate over this time period: Bronx (-30.62%); Brooklyn (19.58 %); Queens (-13.93%); Manhattan (-12.35%). According to the Staten Island Advance, between 2001-2014, Staten Island University Hospital (SIUH) saw a 165 percent increase in the number of NAS cases and, in 2014, 11 babies born at SIUH were treated for NAS. During the second week of November 2015, six newborns at RUMC suffered from NAS.
Schumer today explained that the recently-passed Fiscal Year 2016 appropriations bill provides the SAMHSA grant program with approximately $47 million to fight various activities, an increase in $35 million from the year prior.
Schumer is urging HHS to dedicate a portion of this recently allocated funding to help fight the growing NAS epidemic in places with high rates of infants with NAS, like Staten Island and Long Island. Schumer said this vital funding should be used to help treat mothers and babies with NAS, help mothers and their babies recover and help prevent the trend from growing.
Schumer has long supported additional measures to help mothers and NAS infants. In 2014, Schumer successfully urged the FDA to finalize a 2008 rule that made much-needed revisions to prescription drug labeling for pregnant women using all prescription drugs. The FDA's 2008 Proposed Rule on Requirements for Pregnancy and Lactation Labeling is designed to facilitate informed counseling about the prescribing of medicines for women who are pregnant, breastfeeding, or of childbearing potential. In his 2012 letter to FDA Commissioner Hamburg, Schumer noted that it is crucial to do everything possible to combat NAS, and the long overdue finalization of this rule would play an important role by helping pregnant women and their health care providers to avoid medications that may increase the risk of dependence during pregnancy. Schumer also noted this work could help addicted pregnant women to seek medical care that will reduce the risk of NAS.