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Office of the Press Secretary

For Immediate Release October 17, 2000


Today I am pleased to sign into law H.R. 4365, the "Children's Health Act of 2000." This legislation authorizes expanded research and services for a wide variety of childhood and prenatal health problems, reauthorizes programs of the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) within the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), and addresses the problem of substance abuse and associated violence.

This Act calls on HHS to continue providing services to children whose lives have been affected by diseases such as diabetes, asthma, lead poisoning, cancer, and autism, and to expand research in these and other areas such as birth defects and brain injuries so that we can better understand their causes and develop treatments. I am pleased that H.R. 4365 authorizes a new research effort, a national long-term study of environmental influences on children's health and development, that will provide critical information about environmental, social, and economic factors that affect children's health. We hope that with increased understanding of children's diseases, we will get closer to ultimately finding cures or preventing these conditions from ever occurring. I am gratified to see that this bill's focus on children's health addresses several priority areas identified by the President's Task Force on Environmental Health Risks and Safety Risks to Children.

I am also pleased that H.R. 4365 authorizes new funds to improve the health and safety of children in child care. Available, affordable, safe, high-quality child care is a concern for any working parent. I have committed my Administration to achieving this goal, and today we are making substantial strides forward.

As a Nation, we continue to face the challenges of curbing substance abuse, especially among our youth, preventing youth violence, and addressing the mental health needs of our citizens.

For this reason, I am especially proud of the comprehensive manner in which this legislation addresses illegal drug abuse, beginning with the reauthorization of SAMHSA. The Act will improve mental health and substance abuse services for children and adolescents by authorizing grants for youth drug treatment and early intervention, suicide prevention, and programs to help children deal with violence, and will address the mental health needs of individuals in the criminal justice system. The bill also lays the groundwork for giving States even more flexibility in the use of block grant funds in exchange for greater accountability.

This bill includes a provision making clear that religious organizations may qualify for SAMHSA's substance abuse prevention and treatment grants on the same basis as other nonprofit organizations. The Department of Justice advises, however, that this provision would be unconstitutional to the extent that it were construed to permit governmental funding of organizations that do not or cannot separate their religious activities from their substance abuse treatment and prevention activities that are supported by SAMHSA aid. Accordingly, I construe the Act as forbidding the funding of such organizations and as permitting Federal, State, and local governments involved in disbursing SAMHSA funds to take into account the structure and operations of a religious organization in determining whether such an organization is constitutionally and statutorily eligible to receive funding.

The Act also builds upon our ongoing efforts to address the emerging threats posed by methamphetamine and Ecstasy use, especially among our Nation's youth. It makes medical treatments for heroin addiction more available and accessible by allowing qualified physicians to prescribe certain medications in their offices, and avoids the centralized clinic approach that many addicts find inaccessible and stigmatizing. In addition to expanding drug treatment, including innovations in medication development, the bill supports increased resources for drug programs in the criminal and juvenile justice systems. This legislation also supports our law enforcement entities as they carry out their responsibilities to make certain that those who traffic in these deadly poisons are taken off the streets and are punished in a manner commensurate with the seriousness of their offenses.

The programs contained in this bill to improve and expand research and services for our children's physical and mental health, and to prevent substance abuse and violence, are important investments in the well-being of our Nation. For these reasons, I am pleased to sign H.R. 4365.


                            THE WHITE HOUSE,
                            October 17, 2000.

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