April 9, 2008 – Washington, DC — The House voted Tuesday to expand research into and surveillance of traumatic brain injuries, which affect some 1.5 million Americans every year and have come to be the signature wound of the war in Iraq. It also moved to ensure that all newborns get adequate screening for genetic or metabolic diseases.
The brain trauma bill, passed 392-1 by the House, closely mirrors legislation already approved by the Senate, and the Senate is expected to act soon to send it to President Bush for his signature.
The legislation authorizes National Institutes of Health programs through fiscal year 2011 and directs the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to conduct a study into national traumatic brain injury trends and identify treatments. It also supports Health Resources Service Administration grants to fund state projects to improve access to rehabilitation.
It commissions a study into military personnel who have incurred traumatic brain injuries while serving in Iraq and Afghanistan, examining how they are being reintegrated into their communities.
Rep. Bill Pascrell, D-N.J., a chief sponsor of the bill, said up to two-thirds of those wounded in Iraq have injuries affecting the brain, and many, especially those from the National Guard and the Reserves, have to turn to civilian care because their injuries are initially misdiagnosed or go undiagnosed.
With the act, Pascrell said, “the House is giving a voice to the millions of brain-injured Americans suffering from this silent epidemic.”
Studies show that every year 1.5 million people in the United States sustain a traumatic brain injury from traffic and sports accidents, falls or violence, resulting in 50,000 deaths and 235,000 hospitalizations. Brain injury costs are estimated at $60 billion a year or more.
The Congressional Budget Office estimated that the programs included in the bill will cost the federal government $1.5 billion in the 2008-2012 period. The NIH estimates that it will spend $352 million for trauma-related activities in the fiscal year that ended last September.
The legislation, sponsored in the Senate by Sen. Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, expands on a program first enacted by Congress in 1996.
The House also passed by voice vote a bill approving $45 million in 2008 to help states expand their newborn screening programs. Sen. Chris Dodd, D-Conn., sponsor of the bill in the Senate with Hatch, said parents are often unaware that screening regimens differ from state to state and that a newborn disorder that might be successfully diagnosed and treated in one state might be missed in another state that does not require testing for that disorder.
Dodd, who held a news conference Tuesday with Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton, D-N.Y., and former Buffalo Bills quarterback Jim Kelly to promote the legislation, said that with passage “we are another step closer to ensuring that every baby born in the United States will be tested for a full panel of genetic and metabolic disorders.”
About 4,000 babies are identified and treated every year for conditions that could threaten their lives or health.
That bill, passed by the Senate in December, goes to the president for his signature.
The brain trauma bill is S. 793.
The newborn screening bill is S. 1858
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