The U.S. House of Representatives unanimously passed two bills sponsored by Pennsylvania congressmen aimed at protecting young athletes and newborns from opioid addiction.
In a votes of 421-to-0, the House passed the John Thomas Decker Act and Infant Plan of Safe Care Improvement Act on Wednesday. Both bills will move over to the Senate for consideration.
The Decker Act, introduced by Rep. Pat Meehan (Pa.-7th), would require the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to review the resources and educational materials available about opioid addiction among young athletes. The agency would then publicly report the findings, including addiction treatment options, and share materials with students, parents and athletic organizations.
Young athletes are susceptible to becoming addicted to powerful painkillers like OxyContin, Percocet and Vicodin while nursing sports injuries like ligament tears and broken bones.
"They will self-medicate, because they want to play through the season, so you begin to see people who are abusing the opioids thinking that they're young and they're strong and before they know it they have an addiction," Meehan told NBC10.
John Decker, a college lacrosse star, was found dead by his parents inside the family's Gladwyne home in January. The 30-year-old became addicted to prescription painkillers after undergoing surgeries for a knee injury suffered while playing basketball as a teen, his father, a prominent Philadelphia lawyer, told The Philadelphia Inquirer. Like so many others who get hooked on the powerful synthetic pills, Decker turned to heroin, the father said.
Meehan is a friend of Decker's family and introduced the bill in April.
Providing better care and more protection for infants born with an opioid addiction is the goal of the other bill passed Wednesday.
The Infant Plan of Safe Care Improvement Act seeks to require states to have policies in place to ensure special care for the babies and strengthen information and reporting about each infant's circumstance.
The legislation would amend the Child Abuse Prevention and Treatment Act to put in place the federal requirements.
Congressman Lou Barletta (Pa.-11th) sponsored the bill and calls the reforms common sense.
“Every 25 minutes, a child enters the world having already been exposed to drugs. Every 25 minutes, a newborn has to pay the price for something he or she was defenseless against. Every 25 minutes, another infant becomes a victim of the national opioid crisis. These are the victims this bill will help protect," he said in a statement.
NBC10 recently conducted an in-depth investigation into the opioid and heroin epidemic called Generation Addicted. The reporting uncovered a generation of addicted people and a public health and law enforcement system ill-equipped to save them. The legislation is one step to correcting the gaps.
Congress is also scheduled to vote on the Comprehensive Opioid Abuse Reduction Act on Friday.