Missoula legislator’s bill would create ‘safe harbor’ for drug-addicted pregnant women

Rep. Kimberly Dudik, D-Missoula

(UM Legislative News Service) Drug-addicted pregnant women could seek addiction treatment without the fear of prosecution or having their children taken away under a proposed bill in the Legislature.

In addition to creating a “safe harbor,” House Bill 309 would create a grant program for health departments to treat prenatal addictions. Rep. Kimberly Dudik, D-Missoula, who’s sponsoring the bill, said the hope of the bill is to reduce the number of drug addicted babies born.

“I’m trying to figure out how to make children safer in our state. And that’s really what this gets to,” Dudik said. “How do we take care of children so that when they are born they aren’t addicted and don’t go through withdrawal and they don’t have those lifelong consequences?”

Beth Brenneman with Disability Rights Montana opposed the bill during its initial hearing. She said she would support the proposed legislation, but that it needs to be amended so the treatments are based off individualized plans and so straying from that plan won’t cause more penalties.

“Substance abuse treatment doesn’t necessarily take the first time, and there should not be those sorts of consequences if someone is genuinely trying to work the plan,” she said.

The House Judiciary Committee did not take immediate action on the bill when it was heard Monday.

Tim Pierce is a reporter with the UM Legislative News Service, a partnership of the University of Montana School of Journalism, the Montana Broadcasters Association, the Greater Montana Foundation and the Montana Newspaper Association.