BILL ANALYSIS S.B. 1485 By: Zaffirini, et al. (Van de Putte) May 2, 1995 Committee Report (Unamended) BACKGROUND Almost 5,000 Texans 18 years of age or younger died in 1991, nearly half of those being children under one year of age. Although death certificates record a cause of death, often the cause is characterized simply as an accident. In the absence of a state coordinating system to investigate child fatalities, these deaths are handled with varying levels of thoroughness; many are not investigated at all. Texas law does not require the routine reporting of all sudden and unexpected child deaths to Child Protective Services (CPS) and to law enforcement agencies. When deaths are reported, the lack of specific training in child deaths often renders CPS workers and law enforcement officials incapable of adequately investigating such cases. As a result of these conditions, child deaths resulting from neglect and maltreatment can remain undetected. PURPOSE S.B. 1485 would create the child fatality review team committee and child fatality review teams to confront the problem of child deaths in Texas. RULEMAKING AUTHORITY It is the committee's opinion that this bill does not grant any additional rulemaking authority to a state officer, institution, or agency. SECTION BY SECTION ANALYSIS SECTION 1. Amends Chapter 264, Family Code, as added by H.B. 655, Acts of the 74th Legislature, Regular Session, 1995, by adding Subchapter F, as follows: SUBCHAPTER F. CHILD FATALITY REVIEW Sec. 264.501. DEFINITIONS. Defines "bureau of vital statistics," "child," "committee," "council," "department," "health care provider," "meeting," "preventable death," "review," "review team," and "unexpected death." Sec. 264.502. COMMITTEE. (a) Sets forth the composition of the child fatality review team committee (committee). (b) Sets forth additional committee members required to be selected by the members of the committee who serve under Subsections (a)(1) through (4). (c) States that members of the committee selected under Subsection (b) serve two-year terms that expire on February 1 of each even-numbered year. (d) Requires members selected under Subsection (b) to reflect the geographical, cultural, racial, and ethnic diversity of the state. (e) Requires an appointment to a vacancy on the committee to be made in the same manner as the original appointment. (f) Requires members of the committee to select a presiding officer from the members of the committee. (g) Requires the presiding officer of the committee to call the meetings of the committee, which shall be held at least quarterly. (h) States that a member of the committee is not entitled to compensation for serving on the committee but is entitled to reimbursement for travel expenses under the General Appropriations Act. Requires reimbursement for a person serving on the committee under Subsection (a)(1) or (3) to be paid from funds appropriated to the Texas Department of Health (TDH). Requires reimbursement for other persons serving on the committee to be paid equally from funds appropriated to the Texas Department of Protective and Regulatory Services (department) and funds appropriated to the Children's Trust Fund of Texas Council (council). Sec. 264.503. PURPOSE AND DUTIES OF COMMITTEE AND SPECIFIED STATE AGENCIES. (a) States that the purpose of the committee is to develop an understanding of the incidence and causes of child deaths in this state; identify procedures within the agencies represented on the committee to reduce the number of preventable child deaths; and promote public awareness and make recommendations to the governor and the legislature for changes in law, policy, and practice to reduce the number of preventable child deaths. (b) Requires the department, the council, and the TDH to perform the duties specified by this section. (c) Sets forth requirements for the department. (d) Requires the council to promote education of the public regarding the incidence and causes of child deaths, the public role in preventing child deaths, and specific steps the public can undertake to prevent child deaths. Requires the committee to enlist the support and assistance of civic, philanthropic, and public service organizations in the performance of its duties imposed under this subsection. (e) Requires the TDH to collect and coordinate the collection of data with other data collection activities and perform annual statistical studies of the incidence and causes of child fatalities using the data collected. (f) Requires the committee to issue annual reports on the committee's activities, and to publish the report and submit a copy to the governor, lieutenant governor, and speaker of the house of representatives not later than December 1 of each even-numbered year. Sec. 264.504. MEETINGS OF COMMITTEE. (a) Subjects meetings of the committee to the open meetings law, Chapter 351, Government Code, as if the committee were a governmental body under that chapter, with exceptions. (b) Makes closed to the public and not subject to the open meetings law any portion of a committee meeting during which the committee discusses an individual child's death. (c) Prohibits from being disclosed during a public meeting any information that identifies a deceased child, member of the child's family, a guardian or caretaker of the child, or an alleged or suspected perpetrator of abuse or neglect of the child. (d) Prohibits information regarding the involvement of a state or local agency with the deceased child or another person described by Subsection (c) from being disclosed during a public meeting. (e) Authorizes the committee to conduct an open or closed meeting by telephone conference call or other electronic medium. Subjects a meeting under this subsection to the notice requirements applicable to other meetings, and requires the notice of the meeting to specify as the location of the meeting the location where meetings of the committee are usually held. Requires each part of the meeting by telephone conference call that is required to be open to the public to be audible to the public at the location specified in the notice and to be tape-recorded and made available to the public. (f) States that this section does not prohibit the committee from requesting the attendance at a closed meeting of a person who is not a committee member and who has information regarding a deceased child. Sec. 264.505. ESTABLISHMENT OF REVIEW TEAM. (a) Authorizes a multidisciplinary and multiagency child fatality review team (review team) to be established for a county to review child deaths in that county. Authorizes a review team for a county with a population of less than 50,000 to join with an adjacent county or counties to establish a combined review team. (b) Authorizes any person who may be a member of a review team under Subsection (c) to initiate the establishment of a review team and call the first organizational meeting of the team. (c) Sets forth individuals and designees a review team may include. (d) Authorizes members of a review team to select additional team members according to community resources and needs. (e) Requires a review team to select a presiding officer from its members. Sec. 264.506. PURPOSE AND DUTIES OF REVIEW TEAM. (a) States that the purpose of a review team is to decrease the incidence of preventable child deaths by providing assistance, direction, and coordination to investigations of child deaths; promoting cooperation, communication, and coordination among agencies involved in responding to child fatalities; developing an understanding of the causes and incidence of child deaths in the counties where the review teams are located; recommending changes to agencies that will reduce the number of preventable child deaths; and advising the committee on changes to law, policy, or practice that will assist the team and represented agencies. (b) Requires a review team, in order to achieve its purpose, to adapt and implement the committee's model protocols; meet regularly to review child fatality cases and recommend methods to improve coordination of services and investigations between agencies that are represented on the team; collect and maintain data as required by the committee; and submit to the bureau of vital statistics data reports on deaths reviewed as specified by the committee. (c) Requires a review team to initiate prevention measures as indicated by the review team's findings. Sec. 264.507. DUTIES OF PRESIDING OFFICER. Requires the presiding officer to notify team members of a meeting to review a child fatality; provide a list to review team members of each child fatality to be reviewed at a meeting; submit data reports to the bureau of vital statistics; and ensure that the review team operates according to the adapted protocols. Sec. 264.508. REVIEW PROCEDURE. (a) Requires the review team of the county in which the injury, illness, or event that was the cause of a child's death occurred, as stated on the death certificate, to review the death. (b) Requires each review team member, on receipt of the list of child deaths under Section 264.507, to review the member's records and the records of the member's agency for information regarding each listed child. Sec. 264.509. ACCESS TO INFORMATION. (a) Authorizes a review team to request information and records regarding a deceased child as necessary to carry out the review team's purpose and duties. Sets forth records and information that may be requested. (b) Requires the custodian of the relevant information and records relating to a deceased child, on request of the presiding officer of a review team, to provide those records to the review team. Sec. 264.510. MEETING OF REVIEW TEAM. (a) Provides that a meeting of a review team is closed to the public and is not subject to the open meetings law, Chapter 551, Government Code. (b) States that this section does not prohibit a review team from requesting the attendance at a closed meeting of a person who is not a member of the review team and who has information regarding a deceased child. (c) Prohibits members of a review team and persons attending a review team meeting from disclosing what occurred at the meeting, except as necessary to carry out a review team's purpose and duties. (d) States that a member of a review team participating in the review of a child death is immune from civil or criminal liability arising from information presented on or opinions formed as a result of a meeting. Sec. 264.511. USE OF INFORMATION AND RECORDS; CONFIDENTIALITY. (a) States that information and records acquired by the committee or a review team in the exercise of its purpose and duties under this subchapter are confidential and exempt from disclosure under the open records law, Chapter 552, Government Code, and may only be disclosed as necessary to carry out the committee's or review team's purpose and duties. (b) States that a report of the committee or review team, or a statistical compilation of data reports is a public record subject to the open records law, Chapter 552, Government Code, as if the committee or review team were a governmental body under that chapter, unless the report or statistical compilation contains any information that would permit the identification of an individual. (c) Prohibits a member of a review team from disclosing any information that is confidential under this section. (d) States that information, documents, and records of the committee or a review team are confidential under this section and are not subject to subpoena or discovery, and prohibits their introduction into evidence in any civil or criminal proceeding. Provides a specific exception. Sec. 264.512. GOVERNMENTAL UNITS. States that the committee and a review team are governmental units for purposes of Chapter 101, Civil Practice and Remedies Code. States that a review team is a unit of local government under that chapter. SECTION 2. (a) Requires the executive directors of the Children's Trust Fund of Texas Council and the department to jointly call a meeting of the individuals to serve on the child fatality review team committee under Subdivisions (1) through (4), Subsection (a), Section 264.502, Family Code, to be held not later than October 1, 1995. Requires those committee members to select the additional members to serve under Section 264.502(b), Family Code, not later than December 1, 1995. (b) Establishes that the initial members of the committee are appointed to serve terms expiring February 1, 1996. (c) Requires the first meeting of the child fatality review team committee that includes members selected under Section 264.502(b), Family Code, to be held not later than January 1, 1996. SECTION 3. Provides that this Act takes effect only if the 74th Legislature, at its regular session, enacts H.B. 655 and that bill becomes law. Provides that if that legislation does not become law, this Act has no effect. SECTION 4. Effective date: September 1, 1995. SECTION 5. Emergency clause. SUMMARY OF COMMITTEE ACTION S.B. 1485 was considered by the Public Health Committee in a public hearing on May 2, 1995. The bill was reported favorably without amendment, and with the recommendation that it do pass and be printed, by a record vote of 6 AYES, 0 NAYS, 0 PNV, and 3 ABSENT.