Government News
Children’s Health Key Part Of Congressional Agenda
Psychiatric News
Volume 38 Number 8 page 9-9

Legislators introduced in Congress last month three bills that have the strong backing of APA and the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry.

The Child Healthcare Crisis Relief Act (HR 5078) addresses the national shortage of child and adolescent psychiatrists by extending graduate medical education funding to child psychiatry training programs and creating a loan-forgiveness program that includes child psychiatry trainees. The bill was introduced in the House by Reps. Patrick Kennedy (D-R.I.) and Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-Fla.).

The Pediatric Research Equity Act of 2003 (S 650) would require drug companies that seek FDA approval for a new indication, dosage, dosing regimen, or active drug ingredient to conduct trials with children unless the FDA grants the company a waiver. About 75 percent of medications prescribed for children are tested only in adults before being granted FDA approval. The Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions Committee approved the bill last month with an expiration date of 2007. The bill was introduced by Sens. Mike DeWine (R-Ohio), Judd Gregg (R-N.H.), Christopher Dodd (D-Conn.), and Hillary Rodham Clinton (D-N.Y.).

The legislation restores the protections of the 1998 FDA Pediatric Rule, which was struck down last October by a federal court. The bill also requires drug companies to conduct pediatric trials of certain medications no longer under patent that the FDA decides are beneficial to children.

In January Congress enacted the Best Pharmaceuticals for Children Act, which extended exclusive patents for an additional six months to drug companies to encourage them to test their products in children. The legislation stopped short of requiring the companies to conduct pediatric trials.

The Family Opportunity Act of 2003 (S 622) was reintroduced in the Senate last month so states can offer a Medicaid buy-in option to poor families of children with severe disabilities. Families with incomes of up to 250 percent of the federal poverty level would qualify for the Medicaid coverage. Cost-sharing is on a sliding scale up to the full premium cost, with protections for lower-income families, according to the bill.

States would also have the option to include children who receive psychiatric hospital services under home- and community-based waivers. Another provision would establish family health information centers to assist families of children with severe disabilities. The bill was introduced by Sens. Charles Grassley (R-Iowa) and Edward Kennedy (D-Mass.).

In related news, the House of Representatives passed HR 12 last month to reauthorize federal programs aimed at safeguarding children from abuse, promoting adoption, and preventing child abandonment. The bill would renew through Fiscal 2008 the 1996 Child Abuse Prevention and Treatment Act, which authorizes state funds for assessing, preventing, and treating child abuse. The Senate passed a similar bill (S 342) last month.

More information about these bills can be accessed on the Web at http://thomas.loc.gov/ by searching on the bill number.

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