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Senate Passes Ayotte-backed Bill to Help Newborns Facing Withdrawal Symptoms

The Senate on Thursday passed a bill co-sponsored by Sen. Kelly Ayotte that’s meant to address one particularly troubling side effect of the nation’s opioid crisis: growing drug dependence among infants.

The bill requires the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services to review how it deals with “neonatal abstinence syndrome” (or “NAS”). It also calls upon the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to help states improve public health monitoring and data collection around NAS.

As New Hampshire has struggled with opiate addiction in the last decade, it has also seen an increase in the number of babies born with opiate withdrawal symptoms.

Fewer than 20 babies were born with such symptoms in 2001, according to data from the state’s health department. By 2011, that figure had jumped to nearly 140.

Babies experiencing neonatal abstinence syndrome can exhibit a range of symptoms, according to medical experts – restlessness, trouble eating or sleeping, respiratory issues and more. Several medical facilities in New Hampshire are studying therapies to help those infants and support mothers struggling with addiction. 

Ayotte, speaking on the Senate floor following the bill’s passage, underscored the extent of the issue in New Hampshire. She recalled conversations she’s had in convenience stores, on ride-alongs with public safety officials and during a visit to Catholic Medical Center earlier this year, where medical staff reported an increase in babies born with NAS.

Hospital officials said nearly half of the women in their pregnancy care center were dealing with addiction, according to Ayotte.

The House passed its own version of the bill in September. Pending approval of minor changes, it is expected to head to the president for a signature.

Credit N.H. Department of Health and Human Services


Casey is a Senior News Editor for NHPR. You can contact her with questions or feedback at
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