Gov. Jay Nixon today joined families, health providers, children's advocates and law enforcement officials at St. Louis Children's Hospital to sign bills to ensure that every child born in Missouri is screened for critical congenital heart disease (CCHD) and to strengthen reporting laws that help prevent child abuse and neglect.
"We want to make sure every child has every opportunity to grow up healthy and strong. And that means starting from Day One," Gov. Nixon said. "Congenital heart disease prevents a baby's developing heart from pumping blood. Many of these heart defects are treatable with quick intervention, but the symptoms aren't always immediately obvious. If these problems aren't detected, they can't be fixed. Senate Bill 230, which I am signing today, will make sure babies born in Missouri are screened for CCHD so they can have a healthy start in life."
Senate Bill 230 requires all infants born in Missouri to be screened for CCHD by using a harmless device called a pulse oximeter which can measure the oxygen in an infant's blood. The pulse oximeter is an affordable medical device that works by attaching a sensor on the infant's foot which shines a small light through their skin and blood. The infant's blood-oxygen level can then be determined based on how the light's wavelength is absorbed. Senate Bill 230 is named for Chloe Manz of Lee's Summit, who was born with a congenital heart defect. Chloe's mother, Kelly, insisted she be tested with a pulse oximeter. The test led to a surgery that repaired her heart and saved her life.
According to the Federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, critical congenital heart disease (CCHDs) accounts for nearly 30 percent of infant deaths due to birth defects. In the United States, about 7,200 babies born every year have critical congenital heart defects. The CDC also estimates that about 300 infants with an unrecognized CCHD are discharged each year from newborn nurseries in the United States.
House Bill 505 requires mandatory reporters to directly notify the Missouri's Children's Division of suspected cases of child abuse or neglect. Previously, state law allowed mandatory reporters, who are required by their job to report suspected child abuse or neglect, to tell a superior or other "designated agent" within their organization, rather than directly reporting to the Missouri's Children's Division. This provision, recommended by the Task Force on the Prevention of Sexual Abuse of Children, removes this option and requires mandatory reporters to directly notify the Missouri's Children's Division.
"This legislation will help to eliminate delays, and make it clear that it is an individual's responsibility to report abuse promptly and directly, rather than just turning it over to someone else," Gov. Nixon said. "This is a common sense measure that can keep children safe, and hold those who hurt them accountable"
Gov. Nixon also signed Senate Bill 256, which increases time period up to 45 days after the birth of an infant that a parent may voluntarily relinquish the child to a health care provider on the staff of a hospital, a firefighter, an EMT, or a law enforcement officer through Missouri's Safe Place for Newborns Act.