Some of the most common developmental disabilities in the United States, such as brain injury and fetal alcohol syndrome, are preventable.

That’s why the Texas Health and Human Services system created the Office of Disability Prevention for Children. ODPC will focus on preventing developmental disabilities in infants and young children.

“We have a tremendous opportunity with the Office of Disability Prevention for Children,” said HHS Executive Commissioner Charles Smith. “With its creation, Texas has a leader to guide it in developmental disability prevention for children. We look forward to seeing what is accomplished in the state through the coordination and guidance of ODPC.”

Working with other HHS programs, state agencies and community groups across the state, the office will coordinate long-term plans to monitor and reduce the incidence and severity of development disabilities.

“This office will be an invaluable resource for families and clients,” said Lesley French, HHSC associate commissioner of Health, Developmental and Independence Services. “We sometimes forget that not all disabilities are present from birth.”

Several programs in HHS’s Medical and Social Services division already provide services that have the potential to prevent developmental disabilities. The Substance Abuse Prevention Program, Early Childhood Intervention and the Office of Acquired Brain Injury will now work hand in hand with ODPC to address preventable developmental disabilities through outreach campaigns that focus awareness and education on preventing developmental disabilities in infants and young children.

“We’ve found maternal health, proper prenatal care and continued access to quality healthcare through early childhood play a huge role in the healthy development of a child,” French said. “Without these resources, a child is at risk of developing a disability that could affect their intellectual abilities, physical abilities or both.”

The office is a result of the HHS’s efforts to create a unified approach to behavioral health and developmental disabilities across the state, said Sonja Gaines, HHS’s associate commissioner for Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities and Behavioral Health Services.

“There are many successful programs making great strides towards prevention, and this is yet another opportunity to further these effort,” Gaines said. “The creation of ODPC will foster a multi-faceted approach to preventing developmental disabilities.”

ODPC is the successor to the former Texas Office for the Prevention of Developmental Disabilities. Senate Bill 200, passed during the 84th Legislative Session, abolished the former office and its executive committee and transferred the duties to HHSC effective Sept. 1. ODPC was created in response to this legislatively mandated transfer to ensure the prevention of developmental disabilities remains a focus in Texas.