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Gov. Pritzker Announces New Maternal Health and Birth Equity Initiatives at South Side Birth Center

Press Release - Monday, February 26, 2024

FY25 Budget proposes $23M commitment to birth equity efforts

CHICAGO — Today, Governor JB Pritzker and Lt. Governor Juliana Stratton visited the Chicago South Side Birth Center (CSSBC) to highlight new proposals to enhance birth equity across Illinois alongside CSSBC founder and midwife Jeanine Valrie Logan, State agency leadership, and key advocates from the General Assembly.

Building on efforts to protect and expand reproductive health care in Illinois, the Governor is proposing a $23 million investment in the State's Fiscal Year 2025 budget to advance birth equity. This funding will focus on improving maternal health outcomes and reducing disparities for Black women though investments in community-based providers, expansion of the home visiting program, a child tax credit, and a free diaper pilot program.

"There is no freedom of choice without access to a full spectrum of reproductive healthcare for women and new mothers," said Governor JB Pritzker. "I asked my partners in the General Assembly to join me in supporting mothers and mothers-to-be in our new Birth Equity Initiative — a focused effort to expand birth equity and reproductive health justice throughout Illinois. This proposed $23 million investment in community-based care puts us on a path to ensure every woman, no matter her income level, has the right to a healthy and safe pregnancy."

"We have a responsibility to create a birthing system Black women can trust. From being discredited and ignored to downright neglected, the stories of systemic failure are endless and have cost us too many lives," said Lieutenant Governor Juliana Stratton. "This Initiative acknowledges that it is a right, not a privilege, to carry a health pregnancy, deliver a healthy baby, and make it home to raise that baby in a healthy environment."

Across the nation, Black women are three times as likely to die from pregnancy-related causes than white women. To confront racial disparities in maternal mortality rates, Governor Pritzker announced a number of initiatives in the FY25 budget, to break down silos between agencies driving maternal health initiatives and uplift community-based care and local partnerships.
  • With a proposed $4.4M allocation, the Illinois Department of Public Health (DPH) will create a statewide strategic plan and distribute Birth Equity Resource Building Grants to support the needs of community-based reproductive healthcare providers.
  • The new budget also proposes $12M to establish a Child Tax Credit targeted at low-income families with children under three.
  • The Governor is proposing a $5M increase to the DHS Home Visiting Program, which supports four evidence-based home visiting models: Early Head Start Home-Based (EHS), Healthy Families America (HFA), Nurse-Family Partnership (NFP), and Parents as Teachers (PAT).
  • The budget also includes $1M to pilot a new DHS diaper distribution program and a $1M increase to the Illinois Reproductive Health Facilities Grant administered by the Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity.
As an integral piece of this work, the Department of Healthcare and Family Services will continue its work to approve Medicaid reimbursement for doulas, lactation consultants, and other community-based care providers, and strengthen technical assistance to help low-income new mothers access crucial supports before, after, and during birth.

For nonprofits like CSSBC, these investments help support years of work disrupting dangerous maternal health outcomes for children and families.

"Diaper need is a public-health matter, and getting diapers to families raising infants while overcoming other economic challenges lends support in a meaningful way," said Dulce Quintero, IDHS Secretary Designate. "The Diaper Distribution Pilot Program will help families with young children with one less essential item to worry about as they strive to ensure good health, growth, and development for their infants."

"HFS is committed continuing our efforts to reduce maternal health disparities and improve outcomes for all birthing people and babies: during pregnancy, through delivery and long after birth," said Department of Healthcare and Family Services Director Elizabeth M. Whitehorn. "We have been working to put in place a range of services and supports that will ensure access to quality care at all points along the reproductive health spectrum, from comprehensive family planning services to delivery and follow-up care, including improving the timeliness of prenatal and postpartum visits, and new coverage for certified professional midwives and doulas. We know that expanding access to supports like these, particularly in underserved communities, is essential to meaningfully addressing pregnancy-related mortality and attaining birth equity in Illinois."

"Disparities in maternal health are preventable," said IDPH Director Dr. Sameer Vohra. "IDPH's Maternal Mortality Review Committees have found that 91% of maternal deaths were potentially preventable due to clinical, system, social, community or patient factors. IDPH applauds the Governor and Lt. Governor's leadership and their emphasis on a comprehensive, community-driven approach to enhance birth equity. Public health, at its best, is centered on community, and IDPH looks forward to working with our sister state agencies and local community partners to improve maternal health throughout Illinois."

"Once open, the Chicago South Side Birth Center will offer vital healthcare to women, families, and individuals in south side communities for years to come. Governor Pritzker's new birth equity initiative will make it possible for more midwives and birth leaders like me to open more community centered birth centers across Illinois," said Jeanine Valrie Logan, Founder of the Chicago South Side Birth Center and Leader in Residence at Chicago Beyond. "With the state's support and commitment to birth equity, we can take another step toward fulfilling a dream where community midwives and birth workers can improve health outcomes for Black birthing people and provide every expecting person with safe childbirth options."

"As a lawmaker and former executive director of Everthrive, I've spent my career working on behalf of newborns and new mothers, so it's very heartening to see Governor Pritzker lay out a bold vision for healthier moms and babies," said House Majority Leader Robyn Gabel (D-Evanston). "A safe, healthy pregnancy shouldn't be predicated on one's income, background, or race; it is a fundamental right. I'm grateful for Governor Pritzker's partnership on these issues, and I look forward to working with him to prioritize the needs of mothers and families throughout Illinois."

"The care provided to parents across the state must be accessible and include comprehensive services during and after birth," said State Senator Robert Peters (D-Chicago), Illinois Legislative Black Caucus Chair. "These services and supports cannot be limited to high-income, predominantly white neighborhoods. We need an action plan that launches support programs and expands maternal health care services for low-income families — especially for women of color."

"African American women across Illinois face discrimination and prejudice in the health care system, whether it's how they are cared for or the medical treatment prescribed, and it's time for Illinois to start closing the gaps in care our residents face," said State Senator Lakesia Collins (D-Chicago). "From my own personal experience as a youth in care and as someone who was fortunate enough to receive maternal care services, this is a huge step toward addressing the problems faced by so many African American women in Illinois. I look forward to working with my colleagues to change maternal outcomes for our residents."

"Study after study has shown Black and Brown mothers face disproportionate risks during and immediately following birth," said State Senator Cristina Castro (D-Elgin). "Birth equity investments, paired with legislative action expanding coverage for new moms, will build on the work we've implemented already and shine a brighter light on what still needs to be done."

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