Indiana health care providers involved in prenatal care need to be aware of recent Senate Bill 186 that was signed into law by Governor Mike Pence on March 21, 2016. The new law amends the Indiana Code on health professions standards of practice to clarify that licensed physicians, physician assistants, midwives and advanced practice nurses administering prenatal care cannot release drug test results to a law enforcement agency unless consent has been provided by the patient or by court authorization. The statute specifically applies to the following screenings and tests: (1) verbal screening or questioning concerning drug or alcohol use; (2) urine test; or (3) blood test.

The purpose of the law was to shield expectant mothers, who suffer from drug addiction, from criminal punishment. Lawmakers did not want the fear of criminal punishment related to drug use to deter women from seeking prenatal care. Prenatal care is critically important for drug-addicted patients because of the increased risk of premature birth, low birth weight and possible death to newborns related to drug use. Drug-dependent newborns require extra care and often spend a significant amount of time in neonatal intensive care units. According to a 2015 study printed in theNew England Journal of Medicine, drug-dependent babies now make up 27 out of every 1,000 intensive care cases nationally.

Practical Takeaways

Health care providers should review their current policies and procedures related to disclosing drug test results to ensure practices are in accordance with this new law.

Health care providers should also educate current employees on the new requirements of this law.