Senate approves of Gratwick bill to improve health screening for children in state custody
AUGUSTA — Children entering state custody would receive timely health screenings, and thus earlier medical interventions, under a bill by Sen. Geoff Gratwick, D-Bangor, that received unanimous initial approval in the Maine Senate on Thursday.
Current Maine law requires that children entering foster care have a physical examination within ten days. Gratwick’s bill, LD 582, as amended by the Health and Human Services Committee, requires a referral within three days. It also requires that the child have an appointment for full, comprehensive examination by a pediatric specialist within 60 days. These ‘PREP’ (Pediatric Rapid Evaluation Program) examinations consist of in-depth medical, dental, educational and behavioral evaluations.
“Many of the kids entering foster care come from broken homes,” said Sen. Gratwick, a retired medical doctor. “They are our most vulnerable citizens, who have suffered neglect or abuse. They frequently have a wide variety of undiagnosed medical and psychological conditions. Faster screening will mean earlier interventions and improved health. These children have been through enough, and deserve the best that we can offer as they transition into state custody.”
According to a study by the Muskie School of Public Service, thorough PREP examinations by specialist pediatricians provide foster children with better health outcomes and save money as well.
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.
LD 582 now goes to the House of Representatives for an initial vote.