U.S. Sen. Angus King, I-Maine, and two Senate colleagues, one Democrat and one Republican, introduced a bill Friday that would direct the federal government to examine the rapidly rising rate of children born to opiate-addicted mothers.

In Maine, the number of drug-affected babies has nearly doubled from 526 in 2010 to 995 in 2015, or 1 in 12 babies born in the state.

“The statistics are heartbreaking,” King said in a statement. “Prevention and treatment are key to curbing that, but when babies are born with (neonatal abstinence syndrome), we have got to ensure they have access to the best our health system has to offer – and that starts by understanding the obstacles that are getting in the way.”

The Nurturing and Supporting Healthy Babies Act, sponsored by King, Shelley Moore Capito, R-West Virginia, and Sherrod Brown, D-Ohio, would order a U.S. Government Accountability Office review to determine the prevalence, how many might be covered by Medicaid, the types of treatment available and the cost of those treatments.

Babies born drug-affected often require specialized care, which means longer hospital stays and increase costs – as much as five times the cost of treating other newborns, according to a recent study.

King and Capito also had introduced another bill in February to direct the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid to create new guidelines for residential pediatric recovery centers that treat babies with neonatal abstinence syndrome.

This story will be updated.

Eric Russell can be contacted at 791-6344 or at:

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