Senator Witkos Pushes for Improving Public Awareness and Education of Pediatric Disorder

February 27, 2013
State Senator Kevin Witkos (R-8), right, and Lynn Johnson, Executive Director of the PANDAS Resource Network, left, testify in support of legislation that would establish an outreach and education program for the recognition and treatment of PANDAS.

State Senator Kevin Witkos (R-8), right, and Lynn Johnson, Executive Director of the PANDAS Resource Network, left, testify in support of legislation that would establish an outreach and education program for the recognition and treatment of PANDAS.

Hartford – State Senator Kevin Witkos (R-8) testified before the General Assembly’s Public Health Committee in support of Senate Bill 360, An Act Concerning Pediatric Autoimmune Neuropsychiatric Disorder Associated with Streptococcal Infections on Wednesday, February 27th.

“The most precious gift that we have is a child,” said Senator Witkos in prepared remarks. “We all want our children to be healthy and happy. Pediatric Autoimmune Neuropsychiatric Disorder Associated with Streptococcus takes that away.”

Pediatric Autoimmune Neuropsychiatric Disorder Associated with Streptococcal infections, also known by its acronym PANDAS, is characterized by the dramatic onset of neuropsychiatric symptoms including a combination of obsessions, compulsions, tics and other symptoms. It is believed to be caused when the immune system produces an antibody that interacts with neurons in the brain. The bill would also cover the similar Pediatric Acute-onset Neuropsychiatric Syndrome (PANS).

“Imagine sitting in your kitchen waiting for your child to come down for breakfast like they did every day for years,” continued Senator Witkos. “Today is different. You go upstairs to their room and see your child exhibiting odd behavior. You try to have a conversation and they are defiant, you drag them off to school and they don’t want to get out of the car. As you are discussing your child’s behavior with them you may notice that they may have developed a tick or twitching, unknown to them. Things just don’t seem right.”

The bill would establish an outreach and education program for health care providers for the recognition of and treatment options for pediatric autoimmune neuropsychiatric disorder associated with streptococcal infections.

Oftentimes, the disorder is mischaracterized and parents discover more information on the internet. Those who suffer from mental health issues can manage this illness with medication. Because PANDAS is a viral infection, it can often be cured if caught and treated early enough.

“I look forward to working with the committee to increase awareness and understanding of this complex challenge facing families throughout our state and nation,” concluded Senator Witkos. “Families should not have to suffer through uncertainty when there are resources to help understand and treat PANDAS and PANS, and this legislation would make our state a national leader when it comes to health awareness and care.”

Senator Witkos was joined at the public hearing by Lynn Johnson, the executive director of the PANDAS Resource Network, who also testified in support of the legislation and described her daughter’s experience with PANDAS.

Last year, the State Senate unanimously supported the legislation, but it did not come up for a vote in the State House of Representatives before the end of session. This year’s proposed bill now awaits further action by the Public Health Committee.