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    Prevent punitive approaches and expand care access for parents with SUD

    Substance use disorders and overdoses are major contributors to the current maternal mortality crisis in the U.S. Overdoses, which have increased significantly in recent years, are a leading cause of death among pregnant and postpartum individuals. Substance use and addiction contribute to a number of health and social challenges for pregnant and parenting individuals and can have negative long-term effects on their children’s health and development.

    Despite their urgent need, parents with substance use disorder (SUD) face steep barriers to care. Pregnancy is a crucial moment in which people are often motivated to seek care, but pregnant people are often unable to obtain treatment because of provider shortages and gaps in coordinated prenatal and addiction care.

    Stigma and fear of child removal often prevent pregnant and parenting people from seeking addiction care. Health care providers are often required by law to notify child protective services (CPS) when a newborn has been exposed to substances, including effective medications to treat substance use disorder, even when used as prescribed. Family separation can adversely affect a parent’s recovery and can have negative consequences for children, including trauma and increased risk for substance use and addiction later in life.

    Providing addiction care to parents is both important treatment for those individuals as well as critical prevention for their children. Substance use and addiction generally, but particularly among pregnant and postpartum people, must be addressed with a health-focused, rather than punitive, approach.

    Ask your members of Congress to support the Substance Use Disorder and Family Engagement (SAFE) in Recovery Act (H.R. 5866/S. 3006), which would make care more accessible for parents with SUD, prevent undue family separation, and ensure effective treatment and wraparound services are available to families impacted by SUD.

    The SAFE in Recovery Act would:

  • Prohibit state-mandated reporting to child protective services when prescription medications are taken in adherence with clinical recommendations
  • Require clear, informed consent from pregnant and postpartum people prior to toxicology testing to detect substance use
  • Protect access to public assistance and prevent family separations based solely on an individual taking medications as prescribed
  • Establish a Federal Interagency Task Force to Support Families Impacted by SUD
  • Fund community health centers to close gaps in primary care and require that they provide mental health and SUD services
  • Expand Medicare’s opioid use disorder treatment demonstration program to improve outcomes for pregnant and postpartum patients
  • Create a grant program to provide health, educational, social, and other services to children from families impacted by SUD and enrolled in Head Start programs
  • Establish a National Institutes of Health (NIH) Consortium on Pregnancy and Substance Use Disorder Research
  • Require a study on clinical guideline implementation, barriers to care, and the impact of interactions with child protective services on parents with SUD and their children