Legislation sponsored by Sen. Massey to fight opioid abuse and decrease number of babies born drug dependent is signed into law

(NASHVILLE) May 9, 2018 – Major legislation to curb opioid abuse sponsored by Senator Becky Duncan Massey (R-Knoxville) was recently signed into law by Governor Bill Haslam. The legislation aims to promote safe and responsible pharmacy benefits regarding opioid prescriptions for TennCare enrollees. More specifically, the purpose of the legislation is to curb opioid abuse among women of child-bearing age to reduce the number of babies born with Neonatal Abstinence Syndrome (NAS).

“The passage of this law will result in safer and more responsible pharmacy benefits for TennCare patients,” said Senator Massey. “Tennessee has a crisis on its hands. There are far too many babies who suffer from NAS born to TennCare enrollees, not to mention the fact that Tennessee taxpayers are footing the bill to treat these newborns and potentially for continued care longterm. Often times, lack of knowledge about the risks of opioid use to a baby during pregnancy or unawareness of a pregnancy can lead to a baby being born with NAS. The goal of this bill is to ensure women are informed.”

The new law directs TennCare to promulgate rules to promote safe and responsible pharmacy benefits and stipulates that the rules must require providers to check on a TennCare patient’s pregnancy status, contraceptive use and to provide counseling on the risks of opioid use during pregnancy. Additionally, the rules must address prior authorization requirements to reduce the development of opioid dependency and addiction.

The number of babies nationwide born drug dependent has increased 500 percent since 2000. Treatment costs per newborns with NAS average about $62,000, with a total cost of $1 billion to Tennessee taxpayers annually. Approximately ninety percent of babies who suffer with NAS are born to TennCare enrollees.

“I am pleased to see this bill become law, and I will continue to sponsor and support legislation to fight the opioid crisis in Tennessee, protect unborn babies that might fall victim to it, and promote responsibility with Tennessee taxpayer dollars.”

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