Yager championed “Safe Harbor Act” at SETCCY Brunch

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State Senator Ken Yager was honored as keynote speaker to address the devastating Rx problems facing TN children and families.

Friday, January 31, 2014

Rosalyn Leavell-Rice, Regional Coordinator for the Southeast TN Council on Children and Youth (SETCCY), hosted a legislative brunch which addressed the foremost threat to families in Tennessee.  Top health experts in the state presented powerful statistics showing an increased number of newborns born with neonatal abstinence syndrome (NAS).  The syndrome stems from prescription medications used during the pregnancy – primarily opiates.

Rodney Bragg, the Assistant Commissioner of the TN Dept. of Mental Health and Substance Abuse, stated, “TN ranks 2nd in the nation for prescription opiates per 10,000 people.  There were enough hydrocodone pills prescribed in 2010 to give each Tennesseean over the age of twelve – 51 pills.”

Safe Harbor Act of 2013

The 2013 TN Legislature passed the “Safe Harbor Act of 2013” in an effort to address this problem.  “With 60% of mothers on Tenncare taking pain pills through legitimate prescriptions, the statistic in itself presents a serious problem for the state”, says State Senator and keynote speaker Ken Yager.  “We are trying to provide the mother with an opportunity to keep the family together.”

The law allows the mother to begin treatment during her pregnancy.  Hardwired into the law is a statute which ensures the mother will be protected from any criminal charges for NAS given she adheres to the treatment program.   Yager says, “The law is intended to allow mothers and their babies to get healthy as soon as possible…  If we can reach one out of 10 we have made a difference.”

Chair of Rhea County Health Council, Christine Ralph, assisted Rosalyn Leavell-Rice from SETCCY in organizing the event in order to keep community leaders informed of the major concerns facing our state and community today.  In attendance were elected officials from Rhea County and state legislators from across the region.

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