Legislation to Address Addicted Children
Tennessee Health officials and law enforcement are at odds over proposed legislation regarding children born addicted to prescription drugs. The Legislation, “Safe Harbor Act,” is supported by doctors and other healthcare professionals. The measure would give pregnant women incentives to get into drug treatment programs by giving them priority placement over other addicts seeking treatment. The legislation would also guarantee that newborns won’t be taken away by the Department of Children’s Services solely because of the drug use, as long as the women continue their treatment. Currently, law enforcement is supporting a different measure that would allow pregnant women whose drug use harms newborns to be criminally prosecuted.
The fear among medical professionals is that pregnant woman will fear being prosecuted and not seek the treatment they needs. The police fear that addicts will be given a free pass to neglect children that are safer if they are removed from the home. In the past two years, Tennessee counted more than 1,000 babies born dependent on drugs, and many of those newborns end up in the custody of the Department of Children’s Services.
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