Bills would require plans for drug-exposed babies

State watchdog: Babies born with drugs in system more likely to die within a year

Aundreyes Clecker, Jaxon Denton, Honesty Whiteside
Left to right: Undated courtesy photos of Aundreyes Clecker, Jaxon Denton and Honesty Whiteside, all of whom tested positive for illegal drugs at birth and died before their first birthday.


GRAND LEDGE, Mich. (WOOD) — Efforts are underway in Lansing to legislate care for babies born with drugs in their system.

Two bills introduced to the state legislature Tuesday by Republican Sens. Rick Jones of Grand Ledge and Margaret O’Brien of Portage were inspired in part by a Target 8 investigation and would require a “Plan of Safe Care.”

Jones says it’s time for the state to step up in its support for babies and their mothers as the nation battles an opioid epidemic.

“I was shocked when WOOD TV brought it to my attention,” Jones said.

In November of last year, Target 8 reported that a state watchdog agency found babies born with illegal drugs in their system were more likely to die within a year than other children.

“This bill will guarantee that somebody from DHHS (the Department of Health and Human Services) will be watching that baby and the mother,” Jones said. “It may be a visiting nurse, it may be a social worker, it may be somebody’s that’s an expert in rehab, but everybody is going to be paying attention. It will be mandated.”

“Overall, we’re supportive of let’s make sure that the child is taken care of, the newborn — and also that the mother has a substance use disorder, so let’s help her get into treatment and the other supports she needs,” Cherry Health Chief External Relations Officer Michael Reagan said.

Reagan spent 30 years working for Project Rehab, which provides services for drug addiction.

He says Children’s Protective Services does step in if a child is born with drugs in their system, but these bills could give a more well-rounded approach to treatment.

“What I’ve seen is a real increase in paying attention. Let’s get the mother the treatment she needs so that she can provide the most important maternal care for that newborn,” Reagan said.

Reagan said that just because a mother is addicted to a drug doesn’t mean the baby will be born with a precondition, but the chances are much higher.

Senate Bills 397 and 398 have been referred to the Senate Families, Seniors and Human Services Committee for review.