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By Rep. Joe Don McGaugh
Governor Nixon signed several bills this week focused on promoting the health and well-being of our young people. These are pieces of legislation I supported during the regular session and I am happy today to see they are now set to become law. I truly believe our young people will be better off thanks to these three bills.
The first bill signed by the governor (SB 230) is known as Chloe’s Law. The legislation would 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 such a 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) signed into law this week strengthens 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 where a case of sexual abuse that was witnessed by a university employee 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 witnesses to report suspected cases to their superior. This change is an important one to make sure all suspected cases of abuse and neglect are reported and investigated.
The final bill (SB 256) signed by the governor extends the window of time a parent has to leave a 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 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 in cases where that isn’t possible, we also 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 children will be placed in the care of individuals who can ensure their safety and well-being.
Rep. McGaugh represents the 39th State House District, which includes the Richmond area.