The face behind Bella's Law: Opiate Addiction Treatment Act of 2 - KSLA News 12 Shreveport, Louisiana News Weather & Sports

The face behind Bella's Law: Opiate Addiction Treatment Act of 2015

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KINGSPORT, TN (WJHL) -

News Channel 11 was the first to break down a new bill meant to examine and tighten the way Tennessee does addiction treatment.

Now, we're bringing you the story behind the bill  - the story of a little girl named Bella.

State Rep. Tony Shipley (R-Kingsport) is at the helm of drafting the Opiate Addiction Treatment act of 2015 or "Bella's Law."

Last month, Shipley first sat down with News Channel 11 to explain the legislation -- still in its early stages. With the rise of buprenorphine clinics, more commonly known as Suboxone clinics in our region, Shipley's goal is to assure addiction treatment falls into the right hands of both physicians and vulnerable patients.

A big inspiration for the greater oversight is the number of babies born addicted to drugs, a number that continues to climb. In a previous report, we revealed Sullivan County had the highest rate of babies born with neonatal abstinence syndrome (NAS) in the state last year.

Bella is a beautiful little girl, who already has made a big impact.

"When she was in there, there was 22 babies in the NICU and 12 of them were drug babies. So you know, I told my wife something has got to be done," Greg Jones, Bella's grandfather said. "I said a law needs to be passed. She looked at me, you know, we both kind of laughed. She said what, Bella's Law? And I said yeah."

Greg and his wife Kathy reached out to Shipley, asking for help to a problem their granddaughter is a product of.

"It just a real messed up situation in the state of Tennessee," Shipley said. "The unborn children of Tennessee are being victimized."

Bella's mother was addicted to morphine when she was pregnant, an addiction passed on her child when she came into the world on St. Patrick's Day.

"I mean she was stiff as a board, her breaths per minute were over 180," Greg said.

Doctors tested Bella for NAS with what's called Finnegan scoring - evaluating signs, such as excessive high pitched cries, tremors, sweating and vomiting. Nurses are supposed to begin morphine treatment when the sum of three consecutive Finnegan scores is more than 24. Bella's score was 63.

"We very well could have lost her. All because of drugs," Greg said.

Seeing Bella struggle was nearly too much for Greg, now sober, to handle.

"I walked out to the car, I lost it. I broke down crying, I looked at my wife I said I know what she's going through because i've been there."

They are helpless in the throes of addiction  - going through withdrawal.

"It broke my heart just to think an innocent child had to go through this without choice," Greg said.

Whether it was the luck of the Irish or love from above, Bella pulled through after her St. Patrick's Day birth.

"You don't know what to expect, but she's doing okay right now so we pray she continues to do that," Greg said.

He hopes with Bella's Law, other newborns won't have fight their mother's fight.

"To be able to speak up and have a voice for these children is what is may concern. If we can change one child's life, it would make a world of difference. But I think it will go above and beyond that and help our future generations out here," Greg said.

Shipley said what happens now, is the draft of Bella's Law goes to the governor's office and various medical professionals to determine if the bill should be altered in any way. The plan is to introduce the Opiate Addiction Treatment Act of 2015 in January.
 

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