“We are here because there is still so much room to expand our understanding of NAS. It is one of the most tragic consequences of the opioid epidemic, it is heartbreakingly common, and it is not well-enough understood. Numbers from 2014 suggest that almost 1 in 100 American children are born with NAS. It is imperative that we better understand how to care for these children and the families who love them.”
As Prepared for Delivery
Thank you for that introduction, Dr. [Bruce] Meyer.
I’d like to thank the First Lady for traveling here to this important event, and I’d also like to thank Jefferson Health for hosting us here today.
I also want to express my gratitude to Adm. [Brett] Giroir, HHS’s senior adviser for opioid policy, and Dr. Shahla Jilani, a dedicated White House fellow who has made this project possible.
Both Dr. Giroir and Dr. Jilani have clinical backgrounds as pediatricians, so they are personally familiar with the challenges many of you work on.
And I’d especially like to thank all of you for joining us here for this important convening. Your perspectives as clinicians and researchers will be essential to taking on the challenge of neonatal abstinence syndrome.
It’s appropriate to be gathered here, given the significant strides made at Jefferson in confronting and treating NAS.
In part, we are here to honor the work of Dr. Loretta Finnegan, who has made a huge difference in our understanding of this challenge.
But we are also here because there is still so much room to expand our understanding of NAS. It is one of the most tragic consequences of the opioid epidemic, it is heartbreakingly common, and it is not well-enough understood.
Numbers from 2014 suggest that almost 1 in 100 American children are born with NAS. It is imperative that we better understand how to care for these children and the families who love them.
The opioids legislation that President Trump will soon sign expands our ability to support infants with NAS and their mothers.
As one example, it will expand opportunities for state Medicaid programs to pay for care in residential pediatric counseling centers, which provide counseling and other services for mothers, family members and caretakers. That includes centers like Lily’s Place in West Virginia, which the First Lady has visited, and Brigid’s Path in Ohio, where I’ve been. We have the founders of both those organizations here today.
Introduced under President Trump, HHS’s strategy for confronting the opioid epidemic is comprehensive and driven by the best science we have.
We are not just working to support local communities, families and individuals in fighting the epidemic; we are also working hard to better understand the epidemic itself.
On NAS in particular, the National Institutes of Health has launched the ACT Now study to inform researchers about the gaps in our knowledge of NAS.
The CDC is working with several states to gain a more accurate picture of NAS, while working with researchers to better understand how opioids and other substances used during pregnancy impact children’s longer-term health.
But today’s convening is a new, unprecedented step: a gathering of many of the best experts on this topic, to understand how we can apply technology to learn about this challenge and care for infants and mothers affected by it. To implement a science-driven strategy for NAS, we need to understand it better—much better.
HHS will support research directly ourselves, at places like NIH and CDC, but we also look forward to leading on this issue: raising the profile of the researchers engaged on it and empowering clinicians to improve their practices.
Today, you will discuss how we can make the best use of the latest health IT tools, which offer new opportunities to understand this challenge and new insights into how to care for infants born with it.
Maximizing health IT is a particular area of interest for HHS, and we are eager to support deploying it in this area, where there is a great need for better data and better coordination.
I urge you to think boldly: HHS is ready to support innovative, outside-the-box thinking.
The whole of HHS will engage on this: Understanding the challenges of infants born with NAS is not just a healthcare issue, but something that also demands examining from a human services perspective, because of the social and emotional challenges that often accompany substance abuse.
We are doing our part at HHS on what President Trump has made a priority for his entire administration.
A key leader in that effort has been our First Lady, Mrs. Trump. Mrs. Trump has made the health and well-being of our children her top priority. All across HHS, we appreciate that focus.
NAS is one of the most acute threats to vulnerable children today, so we are particularly grateful for the attention she has brought to the issue.
I have had the chance to visit a number of neonatal clinics now with the First Lady, to hear from top experts about NAS. I look forward to continuing our strong partnership with the First Lady, together supporting the leadership in this room and the communities across America that are confronting this challenge.
So thank you, Mrs. Trump, for joining us today, and I look forward to hearing what you have to say.