Children in state custody to receive improved health care under Gratwick bill enacted by Senate on Wednesday
AUGUSTA — Children entering state custody would receive more timely health screenings, and thus earlier medical interventions, under legislation by Sen. Geoff Gratwick, D-Bangor, that was enacted by a unanimous vote in the Maine Senate on Wednesday.
The bill now goes to Gov. Paul LePage, who has 10 days to sign it into law, veto it or allow it to become law without his signature.
Current Maine law requires that children entering foster care receive a referral for physical examination scheduled within ten days of entering state custody. However, there is no requirement for how soon the appointment must be scheduled for.
Gratwick’s bill, LD 582, as amended by the Health and Human Services Committee, requires a referral within three days, and adds a new requirement that the actual appointment take place within 10 days.
“Children entering state care are often in crisis,” said Sen. Gratwick. “They are incredibly vulnerable, often having left broken homes where they suffered from neglect or abuse. Their health has often suffered, and they can have a variety of undiagnosed medical and psychological conditions. By assuming custody of these children, the state assumes responsibility for their well being, and should do everything in its power to provide timely, high-quality care.”
At the public hearing for the proposal in March, the bill received support from a variety of groups and individuals at the public hearing, including the National Association of Social Workers (NASW), Maine Children’s Alliance, the National Alliance of Mental Illness (NAMI), the American Academy of Pediatrics, the Edmund Ervin Pediatric Center, and several social work students from the University of Maine. Dr. Adrienne Carmack, a highly trained pediatrician from the Bangor area also spoke in favor of the measure.