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Gov. Northam’s proposed budget aims to combat maternal and infant mortality, racial disparity

Gov. Northam’s proposed budget aims to combat maternal and infant mortality, racial disparity
Posted at 11:47 AM, Dec 09, 2019
and last updated 2019-12-09 12:27:07-05

RICHMOND, Va. –  Governor Ralph Northam announced his proposed budget on Monday.

It includes about $22 million to combat maternal and infant mortality and reduce the racial disparity in Virginia’s maternal mortality rate. Proposed funding will dramatically expand Medicaid coverage for new moms, increase home visiting and explore Medicaid reimbursement for Doula support services, Northam’s office said.

“It is unacceptable that black women in Virginia continue to die from pregnancy-related causes at more than twice the rate of white women,” said Governor Northam. “As a Commonwealth, we can and must do better. These historic investments will make a real difference for families across Virginia, and will ensure all moms and children have access to the high-quality, culturally-competent care they deserve.”

In June, Governor Northam announced  goal to eliminate the racial disparity in Virginia’s maternal mortality rate by 2025. As part of this directive, Secretary of Health and Human Resources Daniel Carey convened a diverse group of stakeholders and embarked on a 10-stop listening tour across all regions of the Commonwealth. Today’s budget proposals reflect months of input from mothers, medical professionals, doctors, and community advocates consulted as a result of this process.

“As a mother who has experienced the tragedy of losing a newborn child, I’m proud and grateful for the Governor’s leadership on this issue,” said Dr. Aaliyah Samuel, a mom who shared her testimony during the listening tour. “Ten years ago, I made a career change because I believe that policy is what changes people’s lives. Today, Governor Northam made it clear he not only listened to my voice and the voices of other mothers, advocates, and community members across the Commonwealth—he heard us loud and clear. Make no mistake, this funding won’t just change lives, it will save lives.”

The Governor’s proposed budget also includes $4 million in Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) funding to increase access to affordable, reliable contraception through the Long-Acting Reversible Contraception (LARC) program. Increasing access to LARCs allows families to better plan and space pregnancies and has been shown to decrease rates of preterm and low birthweight births.

Additionally, the Governor’s office said the budget makes significant investments in community-driven and wrap-around treatment models. The budget includes $12.8 million to make home visiting services—shown to be incredibly effective at helping new mothers navigate the complex health care system—eligible for Medicaid reimbursement. The budget also includes language to study the development of a Medicaid reimbursement model for community-based doula services, which have proven effective at reducing maternal mortality, particularly among women of color.