With the 2018 legislative session reaching its midway point, House bills will move to the Senate for consideration and Senate bills will be examined by House members. Among important bills moving through the process that I am supporting is one that would add two new screenings for newborns and another that would help military college students called to active duty.
In Indiana, newborns are tested for 47 conditions shortly after birth. Lawmakers are considering adding screenings for spinal muscular atrophy, or SMA, and severe combined immunodeficiency, or SCID, to the list.
Spinal muscular atrophy is a severe genetic disorder that alters the motor nerve cells in the spinal cord, which can eventually lead to the inability to walk, talk, swallow and breathe. Out of the four types of SMA, the most severe and common is usually diagnosed within the first few months of an infant’s life. There is a new FDA-approved drug therapy that when given to children early on, they can increase their chances of developing vital motor skills.
Severe combined immunodeficiency makes those affected highly susceptible to life-threatening infections caused by viruses, bacteria and fungi. SCID is often referred to as “bubble boy disease” due to the level of quarantine necessary to avoid infection. The syndrome usually results in the onset of one or more serious infections within the first few months of life, making it nearly impossible for a child to live a healthy life if it is not detected at birth.
According to CureSMA.org, approximately 1 in 11,000 babies are diagnosed with SMA. SCID affects approximately 1 in 500,000 births, according to the Indiana State Department of Health.
With SMA and SCID, early detection is key. By testing babies for both of these genetic disorders upon birth, more Hoosier families can turn to advanced treatments that have better outcomes when used before children get sick.
Another proposal for a new law I am supporting would provide members of the Indiana National Guard or reserve branches who are called to active duty while in college a tuition refund, credit or opportunity for re-enrollment. Those serving our country should not have to choose between furthering their education and joining the armed services. The legislation would also expand financial aid opportunities for student veterans by excluding other benefits, such as disability and Social Security, from calculations used to determine their eligibility for federal needs-based programs.
After being supported by the House of Representatives, both of these proposals can now be examined by the Senate. As committees continue to hold hearings and session meetings take place, please continue staying informed on these and other proposals that will impact Hoosiers. All hearings and session meetings are streamed online, and bill digests can be found at iga.in.gov.
For my adult page day on Feb. 20, about a dozen people from our community have signed up for a fun-filled day at the Statehouse. Please consider joining us and participating in this unique opportunity where we can connect and discuss the important issues facing our state. For more information, please call 317-232-9677 or email h29@iga.in.gov.
Kathy Kreag Richardson is a Republican State Representative from District 29, which includes Noblesville, and has served in the legislature since 1992. She also is the elections administrator for Hamilton County. You may contact her at h29@in.gov.