JIM SIEGEL The Columbus Dispatch
December 18, 2013
COLUMBUS — Recognizing the difficulty in measuring new efforts to curb Ohio’s prescription-drug and heroin abuse crisis, the House might move early next year to require hospitals to report the number of newborns addicted to drugs.
“It’s one of the few measurements we will have ongoing for future legislators to see if we’re impacting these addiction issues in a positive, negative or neutral way,” said Rep. Lynn Wachtmann, R-Napoleon, the bill’s sponsor, whose district includes Putnam County.
“That’s one of the frustrations I’ve heard time and time again — it’s hard to get good measurements in place so we know how we’re doing.”
House Bill 315 would require hospitals to report the number of newborns diagnosed as opioid dependent. The Ohio Department of Health would write the rules on how the reporting is done, and the bill specifies that information cannot be passed to law-enforcement agencies.
The Kasich administration announced in late August a $4.2 million pilot program to help pregnant women kick their heroin and prescription-drug habits. Drug-addicted newborns often have neonatal abstinence syndrome, which includes breathing and feeding problems, low birth weight and seizures.
According to the Ohio Hospital Association, treatment for drug-addicted newborns cost more than $70 million in 2011, when there were 1,649 admissions to inpatient and outpatient facilities. The association supports the reporting bill.
Wachtmann, also the chairman of the House Health and Aging Committee, said the bill is among the easiest of 11 relating to drug addiction before his committee.
Other drug bills heard yesterday would require hospices to track medications and dispose of them when they’re no longer needed, prohibit a doctor from prescribing certain drugs to treat opioid addiction unless the patient is getting behavioral counseling, and require counties to provide a ” full spectrum” of drug-addiction and mental-health services while requiring Medicaid to cover certain services.
Wachtmann hoped to have a committee vote on his newborn-reporting bill yesterday, but it was postponed until January when only eight of 17 members showed up. It was the only legislative committee scheduled to meet this week.
Asked why he held the committee meeting yesterday, Wachtmann said: “We have a lot of work to do.”
“I don’t know if there’s ever been a year in legislative history when we’ve had so many major health-care issues happening, from Medicaid reform to this opioid stuff.”
The health committee has 70 bills and resolutions assigned to it, the most of any House panel, according to a list by Gongwer News Service. Most committees have fewer than 30.