McKay withdraws bill protecting children from parental opioid abuse due to lack of support.
For the past three years, Del. Mike McKay, R-Washington/Allegany, Maryland, has been behind legislative efforts which would require local social services departments to assess the safety risks of an opioid-exposed newborn, infant, or a child whose parent has been found guilty of opioid possession. Under the new legislation, an assessment of a caregiver’s fitness would be garnered, then, depending on that assessment, the parent could be required to use a smartphone application to check in with social services to verify someone in the household can care for the child.
The legislative push came about after a five-month-old Pennsylvania infant starved to death following the overdose deaths of both of her parents. The measure, which would include a clause to establish a pilot program in the western portion of the state, was set for a hearing before the House Health and Government Operations Committee. However, McKay has decided to postpone it.
“We got word that MedChi (The Maryland State Medical Society) was going to be against the bill,” he said. “Last year, MedChi was not against the bill, but the year before they were.”
McKay was also met with letters of opposition from the Maryland Association for the Treatment of Opioid Dependence and the Maryland-DC Society of Addiction Medicine.
“The problem is that committee Chairwoman Shane Pendergrass was not going to move it with prominent medical people being against it. And there’s no sense in us going forward with the bill when I know it’s not going to go anywhere,” McKay stated. The bill was subsequently withdrawn, and McKay hopes to have a better opportunity to move forward in 2021.
“I tend to believe that that decision actually was already made,” he said, noting “hospitals already have to report substance-exposed newborns.”
Of the new provision, McKay has worked with organizations who opposed it in previous renditions and now is focused on the question, “But what’s missing out of anybody’s opposition is, who’s looking out for the infant? That’s the purpose of this, and I really think that if we as adults have a little discomfort to look out for somebody who doesn’t have a voice in this conversation, I think that that’s why this bill is important. Because I think that’s what we’re looking out for is that child.”
McKay said he also wants to “help the parents, because I don’t believe they set out to do any harm to their child, but choices have consequences. So, if I’m infringing a little bit or making an assumption, I think we should err on the side of the child who seems only to have me and those who supported (the bill) on their side.”
He acknowledged that addiction can get the best of even the most dedicated parents, saying, “Nobody wakes up and says, I want my infant to die today. But the demons that people are dealing with, it overtakes them. And at some point, when they have the phone in their hand, they should be able to reach out to somebody and get some help.”