Early Hearing Detection and Intervention (EHDI) programs exist in all 50 states and the District of Columbia. These programs grew quickly between 1999 and 2002 because of federal legislation that authorized and funded them. Although that law expired in 2002, federal funding to support these programs has continued.
Reauthorization of the EHDI Act
The U.S. Congress is considering a bill that would maintain the provisions of the earlier law and build on its success. In the House this bill is H.R. 1246. The new proposal includes requirements that already exist based on the earlier law. States receiving funds must:
- Screen all babies by age one month.
- Confirm whether a child is deaf or hard of hearing by age three months.
- Ensure that the child and family are enrolled in appropriate early intervention programs by age six months.
The new proposal and the previous law also include requirements for federal agencies involved in EHDI. When developing EHDI policy and implementing EHDI programs, these agencies are required consult and collaborate with state and local early intervention agencies, consumer groups, educational organizations, deaf and hard of hearing individuals and their families, and professionals who are familiar with the language needs and other needs of deaf and hard of hearing children and their families.
They also require that the early intervention programs for deaf and hard of hearing children and their families offer appropriate services and ensure that families are provided comprehensive information about family support, training, and communication options. They require programs to give families the opportunity to consider the full range of educational and program placements and options for their child.
The new proposal also goes beyond this. It requires the Secretary of Health and Human Services to assist in the recruitment, retention, education, and training of qualified personnel and health care providers. It supports efforts to ensure that babies who are suspected of being deaf or hard of hearing receive an appropriate hearing evaluation and are not lost to follow-up. And it requires EHDI programs to establish and foster family-to-family support mechanisms.
The NAD has been a strong supporter of EHDI programs and of this federal legislation. Through its participation in the Deaf and Hard of Hearing Alliance, the NAD has met with congressional representatives and participated in congressional briefings about the need for this new law. The earlier law can be found athttp://www.law.cornell.edu/uscode/html/uscode42/usc_sec_42_00000280—g001-.html.
The new bill can be found at http://thomas.loc.gov. When you get to that page, look for “Search Bill Text.” Click on “Bill Number.” Enter “H.R. 1246.”
The House of Representatives passed H.R. 1246 on March 30, 2009. The bill went to the Senate and was referred to the Committee on Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions (HELP). The bill is pending action by the Senate HELP Committee.