Going after drug-using moms

The Post-Intelligencer, Paris, Tenn.: Facing what has been called an epidemic of drug- dependent newborns, the state of Tennessee is cracking down on drug-using mothers.

State officials are alerting physicians to be aware of a new state law that allows women to be charged as criminals if they use drugs illegally during pregnancy.

Last year, the state counted 921 drug-dependent newborns, The Tennessean in Nashville reported. So far this year, the count is 463.

Physicians and state officials in Tennessee have won national recognition for their efforts. State officials have passed laws that encourage drug treatment for mothers at the same time that they threaten criminal punishment.

Doctors are not required to tell law enforcement that they suspect patients are abusing drugs, but they are required to notify the Department of Children’s Services.

Mothers reported to DCS are not automatically prosecuted, but the law requires that cases be investigated.

The decision whether to prosecute will be made by local teams of DCS investigators, physicians and law enforcement officials.

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