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Assembly Approves Freiman, Danielsen and Vainieri Huttle Public Awareness Bill to Better Inform Opioid-Addicted Mothers of Available Services

Public Campaign Initiative Seeks to Educate Pregnant Women and Women with Dependent Children on Existing DHS Services

With opioid addiction on the rise in New Jersey, concern for addicted pregnant women and women with dependent children grows. While services exist to help these mothers, it has been harder to connect women with the information they need about those services. Seeking to fill the gap, legislation sponsored by Assembly Democrats Roy Freiman, Joe Danielsen and Valerie Vainieri Huttle received 74-0 approval in the full Assembly on Thursday.

The bill (A-5451) better connects opioid-addicted mothers, and families, with services through an extensive public awareness campaign. Ensuring availability of printed educational materials and public service announcements, in both English and Spanish, is at the core of the bill.

“The goal of this bill is to provide the public with quality, easy-to-access information in order for women as well as their babies to become healthy and drug-free,” said Freiman (D-Hunterdon, Mercer, Middlesex, Somerset). “The sooner a mother and baby get treatment, the better health outcomes can be. By providing education specific to treatment options for women with addiction, we can start making a visible difference in this significant health and social issue.”

While the bill specifically references the Pregnant Women/Women with Dependent Children initiative and the Maternal Wrap Around program, it extends to all Department of Human Services programs that assist women with opioid addiction as well as other substance abuse problems.

“Opioid addiction is especially detrimental for expectant mothers because of its impacts on the unborn child,” said Vainieri Huttle (D-Bergen). “Many babies are born with neonatal abstinence syndrome when the mother has been using drugs during pregnancy. This is when newborn babies go into withdrawal causing irreparable, life-long damage. To curb the problem it is imperative to supplement information about risk factors with awareness of available programs.”

Beyond pregnancy and birth, substance abuse by mothers has been shown to severely impact developmental and behavioral outcomes in children. By calling for the distribution of awareness materials in libraries and by community organizations in addition to substance abuse treatment centers and health care facilities, the bill would provide for larger spanning reach.

“This is a problem that affects future generations,” said Danielsen (D-Middlesex, Somerset). “In order to break the cycle, we need to ensure women have the opportunity to access rehabilitative services at every turn. Everyone deserves a chance and it would be to our detriment if women didn’t receive care simply because they are uninformed.”

The bill now goes to the Senate President for consideration.