BATON ROUGE - The Louisiana Department of Health and Hospitals (DHH) today announced its 2014 Regular Session Legislative Package, which includes five bills that promote the health and welfare of pregnant women and their children, strengthen home and community-based services and make technical clarifications to previous legislation.
"These legislative proposals include logical, forward-thinking changes that can be implemented rapidly to improve the health and welfare of Louisiana citizens," said DHH Secretary Kathy Kliebert. "We are grateful to the legislative sponsors and the advocates who worked hard to help shape the content of each proposal. If passed, these bills will make a positive impact on the lives of Louisianians who look to DHH for support and care."
The first bill, SB 309 by Sen. Sharon Weston Broome, will ensure that health care providers offer screening for HIV and Syphilis to all pregnant women in their third trimester of pregnancy or during labor and delivery under certain circumstances. Current law, RS 40:1091 - 1092, provides for the screening only during the first trimester. As under current law, pregnant women would be able to decline the screening.
A significant amount of research shows that a second test provides the opportunity for immediate treatment in the mother that reduces the risk of transmission of the disease to her baby, preventing serious and costly future health problems for the child.
"In 2011, Louisiana ranked third in the nation for estimated HIV case rates and 11th in the estimated number of HIV infection cases," said Sen. Broome. "Louisiana leads the nation in the rates of cases of Syphilis. Testing for HIV and sexually transmitted infections are keys to reducing the number of new cases and improving maternal and child health outcomes. SB 309 takes an important step in educating pregnant women on how to take care of themselves and their children with the goal of preventing further infections."
The second bill, HB 185 by Rep. Kenny Havard, proposes to amend provisions of the Direct Service Worker (DSW) statutes, RS 37:1031. It will clarify that the medication administration requirements of the direct service worker statute do not apply to individuals in DHH home and community-based programs who self-direct their services, meaning they hire an individual of their choice to provide in-home support rather than going through a specific provider agency to access care. This bill, also called "Bailey's Law" in recognition of the advocacy efforts on behalf of persons with disabilities inspired by 20-year-old Bailey Caroline Durham of East Feliciana Parish, was drafted with support from disability advocates.
"It has been a pleasure working with Jason Durham and other advocates to create Bailey's Law," said Rep. Kenny Havard. "Ensuring people who choose this option for caring for their loved ones with disabilities can continue to do so will strengthen home and community-based settings and services. I look forward to the opportunity to present this bill to the House Health and Welfare Committee and give a voice to such a deserving population."
"As Bailey's dad I want the right to ensure the best care for my daughter and Bailey's Law would allow all families to realize that opportunity," said Dadvocate Jason Durham. "HB 185 is a chance for Bailey to leave a legacy assuring that home and community-based services are specific to each individual needing services."
The third DHH bill, SB 499 by Sen. David Heitmeier, proposes to amend certain provisions of the Direct Service Worker statutes, RS 37:1032, clarifying that direct service workers can administer insulin under rules and regulations that will be developed by DHH and the State Board of Nursing, which is not allowed under current rules and statutes. Allowing direct service workers to administer insulin will help recipients of home and community-based services better control their diabetes, reduce unnecessary emergency room visits and hospitalizations and improve poor health outcomes associated with poor insulin adherence.
"Louisiana ranks 48th nationally in diabetes cases. Diabetes is a chronic disease that needs to be managed appropriately, which includes the proper administration of insulin," said Sen. David Heitmeier. "Allowing direct service workers to assist with insulin will reduce reliance on family, friends and hospitals for treatment. This bill empowers direct service workers and those who self-direct by educating them on how to properly address health-related needs while remaining in a community-based setting."
The fourth DHH bill, SB 498 by Sen. Heitmeier and Senate President John Alario, proposes to amend the State Personal Assistance statute RS 46:2116.1-46:2116.5 to provide new flexibilities that will allow the program to support different types services when cost effective. The current statute only allows funds to be used on costly in-home care, when a simple modification or adaptive device, like a ramp or lift, may be enough the meet the individual's current need.
"Simple things like building a ramp up to a doorway or grab bars in bathrooms make huge differences in how independently a person with disabilities can function in their home," said Sen. Heitmeier. "SB 498 aims to make daily living without assistance easier when possible. As Louisiana puts more emphasis on home and community-based settings and services, it makes sense to start looking alternative ways to use personal assistance funds that decrease dependence on others and increase quality of life."
"The Advocacy Center is very excited to work with DHH and the legislature on SB 498," said Charles Tubre of the Advocacy Center. "We embrace the conceptual changes the legislation proposes and will continue to advocate for Louisiana residents with developmental disabilities."
The final bill, HB 68 by Rep. Timothy Burns, is a technical amendment to clarify language that was passed in Act 683 of 2010, which transferred the administrative appeals function from DHH to the Division of Administrative Law.