TRENTON – Legislation sponsored by Senators Fred H. Madden and Joseph F. Vitale to improve the state’s program for screening newborns for congenital disorders in New Jersey hospitals was approved today by the full Senate.
“Newborn screening is essential to protecting the health and wellbeing of infants and ensuring that parents and medical professionals can intervene early if a condition is detected,” said Senator Madden (D-Gloucester/Camden), vice chair of the Health, Human Services and Senior Citizens Committee. “This bill will improve the program to ensure that additional disorders are incorporated for screening as new information and technology becomes available, and that referrals to specialists and treatment centers are provided for newborns with positive diagnoses. These changes will go a long way to benefit children and families in the state.”
“Many disorders may not be apparent at birth, but can lead to problems that include poor growth or mental development, disability, or even death if left undetected and not treated early in life,” said Senator Vitale (D-Middlesex), chair of the Health Committee. “Updating the newborn screening program annually and providing referrals so that parents can provide their infant with the appropriate interventions after a positive screening will mean better health prospects for children in New Jersey.”
The Department of Health currently requires that, within 48 hours after birth, all newborns be screened for 54 disorders. One heel prick of the newborn provides enough blood to test for all 54 disorders. The bill (S461) would require the formal establishment of a “Newborn Screening” program within the Department of Health and require the Health commissioner to establish the Newborn Screening Advisory Review Committee consisting of medical, hospital, and public health professionals, as well as scientific experts and consumer representatives and advocates. The committee would annually review the disorders included in the Newborn Screening program, screening technologies, treatment options, and educational and follow-up procedures. It would also meet annually to review and revise the list of disorders recommended for inclusion in the newborn screening program.
The Newborn Screening program would screen all infants born in the state based on the list of disorders that is recommended by the Newborn Screening Advisory Review Committee and approved by the Commissioner of Health consistent with the Recommended Uniform Screening Panel of the United State Secretary of Health and Human Services. The commissioner would be required to provide a follow-up program to provide timely intervention and, as appropriate, referrals to specialist treatment centers for newborn infants who screen positive for disorders.
The measure would permit parents of newborn infants to opt out of having their child screened if they provide written notice stating that they object to screening on the grounds that it would conflict with their religious tenets or practices. The bill was approved by a vote of 36-0.