Bipartisan bill aims to pump more funds into local ERs to help opioid-addicted newborns

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. — Right now, there’s a bill making its way through Washington, D.C. that could end up helping doctors on the front lines who treat babies who are born addicted to opioids.

Senators Bill Nelson and Marco Rubio helped pass the bill in the Senate and it’s now awaiting approval in the house before it heads to the president’s desk.

Inside the neonatal unit of UF Health Jacksonville, babies born with a drug dependency problem is not uncommon.

Dr. Padma Nandula said it takes weeks to wean them off opioids.

“Some are between 17 to 19 days is what we have in our unit over the last three years, so we hope to get it down by at least 1 to 2 days maybe,” said Nandula.

Doctors at UF Health Jacksonville hope that potential funding from a bipartisan bill will help them.

Nelson toured the neonatal intensive care unit Wednesday.

“These children that are born dependent on opioids because the mother is addicted then the children, you can’t just not treat them,” said Nelson.

While those on the front lines await more funding, Nelson said some strides are already being made to combat opioid addiction.

“The medical community is now not sending you home with a bottle of 30 Percocet. They’re sending you home with maybe 3 to 4 pills in the bottle,” said Nelson.

If the bill passes the house and gets signed into law, Nelson said it would mean more dollars for research.

Nandula said research a crucial component to combat this crisis.

“We also want to know that whether the steps that we have taken, whether they’re the right steps or not,” said Nandula.

Another potential use for the funding is to create a separate environment for the babies who are being weaned off the drugs to help them recover more quickly.

STORY: Marijuana packages wash ashore on St. Augustine Beach