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MA Hospital Network Makes a Shocking Change on Reporting Babies Born With Drugs in System

Mass General Brigham announced Tuesday it would no longer report to state welfare agencies when a baby is born with drugs in its system because substance abuse in pregnant mothers “disproportionately affects black people,” Boston.com reports.


The change will be rolled out later this month, with Dr. Sarah Wakeman, senior medical director for substance use disorder at Mass General Brigham, arguing the new policy is “based on sound science.” 

Mass General Brigham, the state’s largest hospital network, is joining Boston Medical Center in revising its policy. Now, instead of relying on an infant’s blood test results, hospital staff will only report a baby to state investigators if there’s concern about an imminent risk of abuse or neglect.

Mass General Brigham leaders said the change is allowed under state law. The state’s mandatory reporting requirement says the Department of Children and Families must be notified if a child is injured by, among other things, dependence on an addictive drug at birth. Current interpretation of the law has led most hospitals to file child welfare reports for newborns dependent on drugs such as opioids.

The reporting requirement has come under increasing scrutiny during the drug overdose crisis, in part because women report stopping medications like buprenorphine or methadone, which are used to treat addictions, during pregnancy. They say they fear traces of those medications in their newborns could cause them to lose custody of their babies.

“The goal here is balancing the safety of infants and families,” said Dr. Sarah Wakeman, senior medical director for substance use disorder at Mass General Brigham. “A positive toxicology test does not tell you anything about someone’s ability to parent. Actually, a positive buprenorphine test tells you this person is engaged in treatment.”

Legislation that would amend the state’s reporting requirement moved from one committee to another last week on Beacon Hill. It would direct the state Department of Public Health to write new regulations about drug dependence and child welfare reporting at birth, and require health officials to design plans aimed at helping parents managing an addiction. (WBUR)


“Our new perinatal testing and reporting policy is the latest step in our efforts to address longstanding inequities in substance use disorder care and to provide compassionate, evidence-based support to families, while addressing substance use disorder as a treatable health condition,” Wakeman said, according to Boston.com

The news stunned social media users. 


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