(a) The Legislature hereby finds that until 1984, West Virginia had one of the highest rates of postneonatal mortality in the United States, which is defined as infants dying between one month and one year of age. In the early 1980s, studies in West Virginia showed that infants at greatest risk of dying during the first year after birth had poor attendance at regular physician visits and often received minimal health care. The system for assessing infants at risk for postneonatal mortality, debilitating conditions and developmental delays was erratic and many West Virginia physicians were poorly trained about risk assessment. Uniform guidelines for at-risk infants to enter care did not exist.
(b) In 1985, the birth scoring system, a cooperative effort between the division of health and the West Virginia University department of pediatrics was initiated. The goals of the scoring system were: (1) To identify newborns at greatest risk for death between one month and one year of age; and (2) to link high risk infants with physicians for close follow-up during the first year of life.
(c) Since its inception, the birth scoring system has been expanded to identify and link infants at risk for debilitating conditions and developmental delays with necessary and available services. The program has been greatly successful in identifying at-risk newborns and in obtaining appropriate medical care for those infants.
(d) With the success of the birth scoring system at reducing postneonatal mortality rates in the state, it is the intention of the Legislature to establish the birth score system as a universal, preventive program to be enacted at the delivery of each newborn in the state. The purpose of this article is to ensure that all of the state's birthing hospitals and facilities adopt and implement this prevention program.
(a) The division of health within the Department of Health and Human Resources is hereby authorized to establish and implement a birth score program designed to combat postneonatal mortality and to detect debilitating conditions and possible developmental delays in newborn infants in the state.
(b) The purpose and goals of the birth score program are to reduce the incidence of postneonatal mortality and disease by:
(1) Identifying newborns at greatest risk for death between one month and one year of age; and
(2) Linking these infants with physicians for close follow-up during the first year of life.
(c) The birth score of a newborn infant shall be determined pursuant to the program established by the division of health by trained hospital or birthing facility personnel immediately after the infant is delivered.
(a) Any hospital or birthing facility in which an infant is born, any physician attending the infant, or any other person attending the infant if not under the care of a physician, shall require and ensure that a birth score is determined for the newborn infant in order to assess the level of risk for postneonatal mortality, debilitating conditions and developmental delays: Provided, That no birth score shall be determined or birth score program implemented if the parent or guardian objects to the birth score program on the grounds that it conflicts with their religious tenets and practices. Any infant delivered at a nonlicensed facility, including, but not limited to, home births, shall have a birth score determined by the child's primary physician within ten days of birth, subject to the exception set forth in this subsection.
(b) When any infant receives a high risk birth score, as determined by the program established by this article, the parents shall be informed of the birth score and its implications, and then linked with a local primary care physician for a recommended six visits in the first six months of the infant's life.
(c) The division of health, in cooperation with other state departments and agencies, may provide necessary medical and other referrals for services related to infants determined to be at high risk for postneonatal mortality and other debilitating conditions and developmental delays.
On or before June 30, 1998, the division of health shall propose rules for legislative approval in accordance with the provisions of article three, chapter twenty-nine-a of this code as may be needed to establish the program, ensure compliance and assess penalties as needed to implement the provisions of this article.