Of all the statistics connected to America’s opioid epidemic, Utah leads the way on one especially troubling ranking: our state has the highest rate of opioid prescriptions for pregnant mothers on Medicaid — double the national average. New legislation is exploring why.

According to Richard Nance, understanding why so many Utah women are using or abusing opioids is difficult.

Nance is with Utah County’s Department of Drug and Alcohol Prevention and Treatment. As the director of the county’s substance abuse program he deals with addicted moms a lot.

“A lot of women are afraid that if they seek treatment then they’re gonna be turned over to division of child and family services, maybe prosecuted, maybe lose their baby,” Nance said.

Nance said this delayed care means dangerous side effects for moms and their babies, as well as expensive neonatal care after they’re born.

He’s is excited about the recently introduced POPPY Act. Utah Congressman John Curtis introduced it. If it passes, it will fund research on why pregnant women get prescribed so many opioids, what alternative pain management works during pregnancy and how to raise awareness about opioid use disorder among pregnant moms.