Governor Nixon recently signed several bills focused on promoting the health and well-being of our young people. These are pieces of legislation passed during the regular session and are now set to become law. I believe our young people will be better off thanks to the implementation of these bills.
The first bill (SB 230) is known as Chloe’s Law and will require that all newborns in Missouri be screened for critical congenital heart disease. The procedure, which is done with a device called a pulse oximeter, is very affordable but also incredibly effective in determining potential heart problems in infants. The bill is named after Chloe Manz who received this screening at the insistence of her mother. The test saved Chloe’s life as it revealed a heart problem that was then treated with surgery. Now, thanks to the lesson we learned from Chloe, all newborns in Missouri will benefit from this screening.
A second bill (HB 505) will strengthen Missouri’s laws dealing with the reporting of suspected child abuse and neglect. The bill will help to ensure that fewer abuse and neglect cases fall through the cracks by making current mandated reporters more accountable. The bill is meant to prevent tragedies like the one that took place at Penn State University where a case of sexual abuse was witnessed by a university employee but went unreported. HB 505 requires that current mandated reporters (such as teachers) make the call to the state child abuse hotline when they witness probable child abuse or neglect. The bill eliminates an option that exists under current law that allows a witness to report suspected cases directly to their superior. This change is an important one to make sure all suspected cases of abuse and neglect are reported and investigated.
Senate Bill 256 extends the window of time a parent has to leave a newborn child with a police station, fire station or hospital. Known as “Safe Haven” legislation, the bill essentially gives a parent who cannot care for a child the opportunity to relinquish the child to a responsible party without fear of prosecution. Current law gives a parent five days following the birth to make this decision. The new law will allow a window of 45 days.
While we would like for every child to be raised by loving parents, or put up for adoption through the normal process, there are cases where that isn’t possible. We have to face the reality that some parents may opt for an abortion or abandoning their child in an unsafe location if they have no other options. The Safe Haven Law makes it much more likely that a child will be placed in the care of individuals who can ensure its safety and well-being.
As always, I appreciate receiving your comments, opinions and concerns regarding legislative matters and state government. My phone number is 573-751-5912. You may also write me at: Shelley Keeney; Missouri House of Representatives; State Capitol, Room 313-1; Jefferson City, MO 65101-6806.