Helpful information from the state of Tennessee on new laws dealing with babies born dependent on drugs

The Tennessee Neonatal Abstinence Syndrome Subcabinet is providing useful information to health care providers and patients about recent changes to state laws and rules related to babies that are born dependent on drugs.

Neonatal Abstinence Syndrome, or NAS, occurs when a baby receives certain drugs, primarily narcotics, through the umbilical cord and is abruptly cut off from that supply at birth and then experiences a variety of withdrawal symptoms. In 2013, NAS affected 921 newborns in Tennessee, and that number is expected to be higher at the end of this year based on a comparison of monthly data with current trends.

A few frequently asked questions:

  • Question: Are health care providers required to notify law enforcement about illegal use of narcotic drugs during a woman’s pregnancy that may have caused a newborn to be drug dependent in the context of Public Chapter 820? 

  • Answer: No. The new law (Public Chapter 820) does not require health care providers to report pregnant women or mothers who may be illegally using narcotics to law enforcement.

  • Question: Does the Department of Health provide information on the NAS case reports to law enforcement? 

  • Answer: No.

  • Question: Will mothers automatically be prosecuted if referred to DCS? 

  • Answer: No. Referred NAS cases receive a Child Protective Investigative Team (CPIT) review. The Child Protective Investigative Team determines if the case will be prosecuted.

The NAS Subcabinet was formed in 2012 by Gov. Bill Haslam to bring together experts from different areas of state government to work collaboratively to reduce NAS births in Tennessee.  Subcabinet members include commissioners and staff from the departments of Health, Mental Health and Substance Abuse Services, Children’s Services, Human Services, Safety and Homeland Security, TennCare and the Children’s Cabinet.

More Information:

Frequently asked questions and answers about NAS can be found on the Tennessee Department of Health website at http://health.tn.gov/mch/PDFs/NAS/NAS%20FAQs_63014L.pdf. The information includes details about Public Chapter 820, the Safe Harbor Act, reporting requirements and specific actions healthcare providers may take to help reduce NAS.

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