New Bill Aims to Address Racial Inequities in Maternal and Infant Outcomes

New Bill Aims to Address Racial Inequities in Maternal and Infant Outcomes

Simply put, children do well when their parents and caregivers do well, and ensuring pregnant and postpartum people have accessible and responsive maternal health care is crucial for family well-being. State Senator Janet Buckner and Representative Leslie Herod are leading an innovative birth equity bill package in Colorado, complementing the federal Black Maternal Health Momnibus Act of 2021, designed to address racial inequities and other disparities in maternal and infant outcomes. SB21-194 Maternal Health Providers, one of the bills in the package, includes numerous provisions to enhance Colorado’s infrastructure to support all families  thriving during the perinatal period, including an extension of Medicaid coverage to 12 months postpartum.

Extending Medicaid coverage to 12 months postpartum will ensure that even more postpartum Coloradoans have access to healthcare during a formative time. Access to concrete supports-including health care throughout the perinatal period–is research-based protective factor that lowers the risk of child abuse and neglect and a key way to offer families a strong start by ensuring they receive the basic necessities everyone deserves in order to grow.

The American Recovery Plan provides funding for states to opt-in and extend Medicaid coverage to one year postpartum. Medicaid currently covers up to 60 days after birth, although the most recent Colorado Maternal Mortality Prevention Program Legislative Report 2014–2016 indicates the second highest ratio of maternal deaths per day was during the six weeks to one year period. Of the 94 maternal deaths reviewed by the MMRC during 2014–2016, the majority (76.6%) were preventable—meaning we can change the course of peoples’ lives by investing in prevention.

SB21-194 addresses racial inequities and other disparities in infant and maternal care directly. Other sections of this bill and of the birth equity bill package work in tandem with this extension in order to ensure pregnant and postpartum people have pathways for and recourse around the quality of service delivery and coordination they receive—which strengthens our systems so that care is designed both to preserve the dignity of pregnant and parenting people and to promote their and their family’s healthy development, resilience, and ability to advocate for and receive the resources they need. By strengthening our infrastructure for all families to thrive during the perinatal period, especially for families of color, Indigenous families, undocumented families, people who are low-income and people with disabilities, we can keep the well-being of our state’s children and families an urgent and high priority.

The first hearing on SB21-194 is April 14th at 1:30pm in the Senate Health and Human Services Committee and comes during Black Maternal Health Week (April 11-17), a week of awareness, activism, and community building founded and led by the Black Mama’s Matter Alliance.

To learn more about the birth equity bill package and related advocacy opportunities, visit Elephant Circle’s webpage. Thank you to state leaders at Elephant Circle, COLOR, Raise Colorado, Clayton Early Learning, Children’s Campaign and more for advancing and supporting this bill package.

Engage in National Black Maternal Health Week

  • Check out Black Mamas Matter Alliance’s toolkit, virtual conference, and more.
  • Read the Diverse Colorado Voices: Community-Based Solutions for the Perinatal Period Report. This report, authored by Kayla Frawley, Holley Murphy, Lynn Vanderwielen and more  implores us all to approach birth equity efforts with a collaborative, anti-racist mindset in partnership and allyship with community members most impacted by health disparities.
  • Attend a virtual documentary screening this Friday, April 16th, 12-1pm MT: CPCQC Presents “Community Voices.” Register here. The infant mortality rate in Colorado is one of the lowest in the nation, so why is the death rate for Black babies over twice that of white babies? This short documentary depicts the experiences of the healthcare system by Black women in our community. The Addressing Infant and Maternal Mortality (AIMM) Medical Student Group at the CU School of Medicine will screen the film and facilitate a post-screening discussion about racism in the healthcare system.

Review the 2021 Policy Agenda

Download the 2021 Illuminating Policy Agenda and use the Illuminate Colorado Bill Tracker to stay up to date on the progression of bills this session related to strengthening families.

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Relief for Coloradans this Special Legislative Session

Relief for Coloradans this Special Legislative Session

When families, organizations, communities and policy makers focus on building protective factors, we can effectively prevent child maltreatment and keep families strong during the pandemic and beyond. Last week, state legislators were called together by Governor Jared Polis for a special legislative session in order to pass relief desperately needed by Colorado families due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. Over the course of three days, lawmakers passed 10 bills that will provide more than $300 million in immediate relief for Coloradans in the midst of the current absence of federal stimulus. 

Families and children in need across the state will especially benefit from the bills that passed supporting concrete supports in times of need, a protective factor, including support for the child care sector, housing/rental assistance, expanded internet access for remote learning, food pantry assistance and utility assistance. 

Thank you to the Governor, legislators, staffers, advocates and community partners for their work to make the special session so successful. 

Illuminating Policy During the 2020 Special Session 

Child Care Sector Support

HB20B-1002, endorsed by Illuminate Colorado, will allocate over $45 million to existing child care providers through two grant programs. Currently there are child care facilities on the brink of financial collapse due to the pandemic, and this bill could potentially keep an estimated 2,600 child care facilities open and could preserve child care for more than 100,000 children in Colorado. Access to child care is critical for all parents and caregivers in order for children, families and communities to thrive.

Governor Polis Signing HB20B-1002 on December 7th, 2020

Housing and Rental Assistance

A safe and stable home had been unattainable for many Coloradans prior to the pandemic, and this need has now only been amplified. About 40% of Colorado adults recently surveyed said they live in a household that is behind on the rent or mortgage payment and at risk of eventual eviction or foreclosure. SB20B-002 will provide a total of $60 million in support for emergency housing assistance, emergency direct assistance (administered through non profits), eviction legal defense and unemployment extensions. 

Expanding Internet Access for Remote Learning 

As schools have transitioned to remote learning, the need for reliable internet access at home has become imperative for all Coloradans. HB20B-1001 will create the Connecting Colorado Students Grant program, offering $20 million in grants to local education providers to enhance broadband access for students and staff. 

Food Pantry Assistance 

Prior to the pandemic, food insecurity was a huge problem facing Colorado. Hunger is increasing in the midst of the pandemic with 45% of Colorado households with children reporting food insecurity. To enhance food assistance, HB20B-1003 will provide $5 million in additional grants to state food assistance programs from December through February.

Utility Assistance 

As unemployment remains high, Coloradans are struggling to pay bills including their utilities.  SB20B-003 appropriates $5 million to the Energy Outreach Colorado Low-Income Energy Assistance Fund. These funds will help address the 25% increase in applications that the fund has seen this year. 

The state legislature is set to reconvene on January 13th, 2021. Details around the timing and processes of the session remain up in the air given COVID-19. Subscribe to the Illuminate blog to receive updates on Illuminate advocacy efforts and more information to empower you to advocate for policies that prevent child maltreatment. 

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