INDIANAPOLIS — Gov. Eric Holcomb's latest proposal to combat infant mortality in Northwest Indiana and across the state last week won unanimous House approval.

House Bill 1007, which now goes to the Senate, requires medical providers to use a standard verbal screening tool to assess all pregnant women for substance use disorder throughout their pregnancies.

Pregnant women found to be addicted to drugs then must either receive treatment from the health care provider who administered the screening test or be referred for drug abuse treatment elsewhere.

At the same time, the measure bars medical providers from sharing the test results with law enforcement or the Indiana Department of Child Services.

"Getting women with substance abuse issues into treatment as early as possible during their pregnancy will result in more successful pregnancies and fewer babies born with neonatal abstinence syndrome," Holcomb said.

The legislation also authorizes the Indiana State Department of Health to launch a perinatal navigator program to connect women with high-risk pregnancies to a navigator from a community health provider.

The navigator will visit the pregnant women in their homes and provide education and support aimed at ensuring the women are effectively managing their pregnancies, and later, caring for their newborns.

In 2016, 623 Indiana babies died before their first birthdays. Sixty-nine of those deaths happened in Lake, Porter and LaPorte counties.

Data show that three of the 10 Indiana ZIP codes with the highest rate of babies dying are in Lake County: two in Hammond, the other in East Chicago.

Holcomb has said his goal is to take Indiana from the worst state in the Midwest for infant mortality to the best by 2024.

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