TRENTON – Legislation sponsored by Senate Health, Human Services, and Senior Citizens Committee Chair Joseph F. Vitale and Senator Nia H. Gill to revise the state’s program for screening newborns for congenital disorders in New Jersey hospitals cleared the Senate Budget and Appropriations Committee today.
“The newborn screening is critical to protecting the health and wellbeing of infants and allowing the opportunity for early intervention when something is detected,” said Senator Vitale (D-Middlesex). “Many disorders may not be apparent at birth, but they can be tested for. Left untreated, these disorders may present a host of developmental problems as the baby grows.”
“It is important that we update the newborn screening program annually as new screening technology develops and information becomes available regarding what we need to test for and what we don’t,” said Senator Gill (D-Essex/Passaic). “It is important that these tests are as effective and efficient as possible to ensure we are offering parents the best possible outcomes for their children.”
The New Jersey 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, S-484, would require the formal establishment of a “Newborn Screening” program in the Department of Health and require the Health Commissioner to establish the Newborn Screening Advisory Review Committee. The committee would annually review 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 Commissioner of Health would be required to approve any recommended changes to the screening list or testing protocols. 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 certain disorders.
The bill would permit parents of newborn infants to opt out of having their child screened if they provide written notice stating that they have a religious objection.
The bill was released from committee by a vote of 11-0, and next heads to the full Senate for further consideration.