Call For Funding to Address Maternal Mortality

WESTCHESTER — Friday, U.S. Senator Kirsten Gillibrand and Majority Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins stood at Westchester Medical Center calling for legislation and nearly $180 million in federal funding to address the nation’s maternal mortality and maternal mental health crisis. The United States continues to have the highest rate of maternal mortality in the developed world, driven in large part by the high mortality rates among women of color. Gillibrand’s approach would support mothers at every step of their maternal health care journey and help address racial disparities in maternal health by awarding grants to grow and diversify the maternal health workforce and working to eliminate racial bias in maternal care. The leaders were joined by Assemblymember MaryJane Shimsky, Deputy County Executive Ken Jenkins, Westchester Medical Center OB/GYN Director Dr. Sean Tedjarati, WMCHealth President and CEO Michael Israel, and Dr. Catherine Daniels-Brady, Psychiatrist at WMCHealth Behavioral Health Center.

Andrea Stewart-Cousins and Kirsten Gillibrand went to Westchester Medical Center and called for legislation and nearly $180 million in federal funding to address the nation’s maternal mortality and maternal mental health crisis.
Andrea Stewart-Cousins and Kirsten Gillibrand went to Westchester Medical Center and called for legislation and nearly $180 million in federal funding to address the nation’s maternal mortality and maternal mental health crisis.

“More people in the United States die from pregnancy-related complications than in any of our peer countries – this is outrageous and downright shameful. We must do more to support and listen to women and pregnant people at every step of their maternal health journey,” said Senator Gillibrand. “I’m fighting to include nearly $180 million in the end-of-year spending bill to help implement evidence-based health care standards for all women, no matter their race or ethnicity. I’m also pushing to pass the Moms Matter Act to provide critical mental health and substance use disorder support to pregnant people and moms. I will never stop fighting to ensure every mother is heard and gets high-quality health care — no matter their race, socioeconomic status, or zip code.”

“The Moms Matter Act, sponsored by Senator Gillibrand, represents a crucial step towards addressing the longstanding gap in mental health and overall well-being support for new mothers who have been historically underserved and excluded from accessing these vital resources,” stated New York State Senate Majority Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins. “In our unwavering commitment to reproductive health, maternal care, and favorable pregnancy outcomes, my colleagues in the Senate Democratic Majority and I are dedicated to ensuring that every individual has unfettered access to life-saving information and high-quality care. We are equally devoted to enhancing and fortifying available resources to ensure that pregnant individuals across the state receive the comprehensive care they deserve. I applaud Senator Gillibrand for her invaluable contribution through this legislation and her tireless efforts to support mothers, not only in New York but also throughout our nation.”

“Pregnant and postpartum women in the United States are dying at rates up to ten times that of women in other high-income nations. Among them, Black women are dying at twice the national average. And, in recent years, the trend has only gotten worse. To reduce these shameful disparities, we need to invest in solutions that benefit all new mothers while focusing on the needs of those who are most at risk. The Moms Matter Act will do just that, by addressing mental health and substance abuse disorders — which are among the leading causes of maternal death — at the community level. Senator Gillibrand’s advocacy on this issue will promote fairness in maternal health care, and it will save lives,” said Assemblymember MaryJane Shimsky.

“Senator Gillibrand’s Bipartisan Moms Matter Act represents a pivotal moment in our ongoing efforts to prioritize the health and well-being of mothers. The legislation’s focus on addressing maternal mental health conditions and substance use disorders is not just timely, but essential. As County Executive of Westchester, I wholeheartedly support this initiative, and I commend Senator Gillibrand for her dedication to improving maternal health outcomes. We must continue working to ensure that every mother, regardless of their background or socioeconomic status, receives the care and support they need during and after pregnancy,” said Westchester County Executive George Latimer.

“The bill proposed by U.S. Senator Gillibrand is coming at a crucial time in this country’s history as we are seeing increasing rates of mental health and substance use disorder among disenfranchised pregnant women leading to illness and even death,” said Michael D. Israel, President and CEO of Westchester Medical Center Health Network. “This bill aligns nicely with our recently launched Center for Women’s Health Equity which seeks to proactively eliminate the social, economic, cultural and racial determinants of health that can result in increased morbidity and mortality rates among pregnant women across the Hudson Valley. We applaud the Senator for her leadership on this issue and look forward to working with her now and into the future to address this public health crisis.”

Senator Gillibrand’s Moms Matter Act would establish two grant programs to support moms with maternal mental health conditions or substance use disorders by investing in community-based programs that provide mental and behavioral health treatments. Additionally, the bill would provide funding for programs to grow and diversify the maternal mental and behavioral health care workforce in an effort to ensure quality, culturally competent health care.

Ahead of final negotiations for the FY24 appropriations package, Senator Gillibrand is calling on Senate Appropriations Committee leaders to include $164 million for the Safe Motherhood and Infant Health Program, which will boost the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC) ability to provide assistance to state Maternal Mortality Review Committees in their data collection efforts.

Senator Gillibrand is also pushing for $15 million in federal funding for the Alliance for Innovation on Maternal Health (AIM), a program that works with states and hospital systems to implement toolkits to improve maternal outcomes. AIM works on a range of maternal safety topics, including obstetric hemorrhage, severe hypertension in pregnancy, maternal mental health, obstetric care for women with opioid use disorder, and education on peripartum racial and ethnic disparities.

Senator Gillibrand is a relentless champion for the health and rights of mothers and their families. Gillibrand fought for and successfully established a National Maternal Mental Health Hotline, which provides free, confidential, 24/7 support to pregnant and postpartum women facing mental health challenges. Counselors are available by text and phone in English and Spanish and have access to interpreter services that can support 60 other languages.

The hotline can be reached at 1-833-943-5746 (1-833-9-HELP4MOMS).

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