Protecting Our Infants Act: Final Strategy Now Available

By: Kimberly Johnson, Ph.D., Director, Center for Substance Abuse Treatment, Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration

The health of this generation and the next begins with ensuring that pregnant women and their newborns get appropriate health care.  According to SAMHSA’s latest National Survey on Drug Use and Health, the number of pregnant women with opioid use disorder (OUD) has more than doubled and the number of infants born with neonatal abstinence syndrome (NAS) has grown fivefold. Reducing these numbers means getting pregnant women with OUD the health care they need to reduce the chance of prenatal opioid exposure and NAS.

Congress passed the Protecting Our Infants Act of 2015 (POIA) to respond to the unmet needs of pregnant women and their newborns. The law mandated the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) to: (1) reduce the gaps in research; (2) develop guidance of best practice to treat NAS; and (3) to coordinate federal efforts and reduce duplication among relevant federal programs.

HHS’s Behavioral Health Coordinating Council Subcommittee on Prescription Drug Abuse developed the POIA Report to Congress and Final Strategy after obtaining both expert and public input. The adoption of the effective, evidence-based interventions identified in the Final Strategy will improve care for pregnant and parenting women with OUD and their infants.

The Final Strategy includes:

  • Background information on prenatal opioid exposure and NAS
  • Strategies for:
    • Preventing prenatal opioid exposure – e.g., improving screening for OUD and interventions that prevent misuse of opioids by women of childbearing age.
    • Treating both the mother and the infant – e.g., providing continuing medical education to providers treating infants with NAS
    • Providing services for pregnant and parenting women with OUD and their infants – e.g., provide easily accessible, family friendly, treatment for women with OUD

The Report to Congress and Final Strategy supports our efforts to address the opioid crisis, which is one of HHS Secretary Tom Price’s top priorities for improving the health of the American people. The Department has outlined five specific strategies to combat the ongoing opioid crisis: strengthening public health surveillance, advancing the practice of pain management, improving access to treatment and recovery services, targeting availability and distribution of overdose-reversing drugs, and supporting cutting-edge research.

I encourage you to read the report and strategy, and help us share these materials and other information resources to raise awareness of this important issue.

To learn more, visit https://www.samhsa.gov/specific-populations/age-gender-based#poia.

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