WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Senators Shelley Moore Capito (R-W.Va.) and Angus King (I-Maine) introduced the Cradle Act, bipartisan legislation to improve care for babies born with neonatal abstinence syndrome (NAS) from exposure to opioids during pregnancy.

Babies born with NAS increased five-fold from 2000-2012 according to the National Institute on Drug Abuse. Newborns born with NAS require specialized care that can result in longer hospital stays and increased costs, up to more than five times the cost of treating other newborns.

“The increasing number of babies with neonatal abstinence syndrome are the smallest and most vulnerable victims of the drug epidemic. Helping those born addicted through no fault of their own is a critical part of my efforts to help families across America. By improving access to specialized care and creating a supportive environment for treatment, the Cradle Act can make a difference in the lives of babies and mothers battling addiction,” said Senator Capito.

“When a baby is born with neonatal abstinence syndrome, the focus should be on ensuring that the child receives the highest-quality, most effective care available,” Senator King said. “But too often, federal regulations stand in the way of cutting edge treatment. By allowing CMS to cover a wider variety of care, our legislation will help ensure that babies experiencing withdrawals will have access to a greater range of treatment options that will more effectively put them on track to a happier, healthier life.”

To improve care and access to care for babies born addicted to opioids, the Cradle Act directs the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid to establish new guidelines for residential pediatric recovery centers that treat babies with neonatal abstinence syndrome. Similar guidelines exist for hospitals, nursing homes, and rehabilitation facilities.

The Cradle Act also recognizes the importance of counseling, specialized training, and other activities that encourage bonding between infants and new mothers.

U.S. Representative Evan Jenkins (R-W.Va.) introduced a companion bill, H.R. 3865, in October 2015.

“Going through withdrawal from heroin and other opioids is a horrific way to start one’s life, but that’s the reality for many newborns in West Virginia and across the country. Lily’s Place in Huntington is making a difference in the lives of babies with neonatal abstinence syndrome and their families, and we should encourage more centers to open nationwide to treat these newborns. I want to thank Senators Capito and King for their leadership in the Senate on this issue – by working together and across the aisle, we can fight the drug crisis and ensure healthy lives for children across the country,” Rep. Jenkins said.