Press Release

Senator Gillibrand, Mayor Evans, And Members Of Rochester’s New York State Delegation Call For Major Increase In Funding To Address Maternal Mortality Crisis Among Black Women And Eliminate Racial Bias In Maternal Care

Jan 24, 2022

Today, U.S. Senator Kirsten Gillibrand stood at the His Branches Community Health Center with Rochester Mayor Malik Evans, State Senator Samra Brouk, Executive Director of His Branches Community Health Center Mike Weston, and Assembly Members Demond Meeks and Sarah Clark to call for funding to address the nation’s maternal mortality crisis among Black women and eliminate racial bias in maternal care. Ahead of final negotiations for the FY22 appropriations package, Senator Gillibrand is calling on House and Senate Appropriations Committee leaders to include $7 million to fund evidence-based training programs to reduce implicit bias in maternal health and $25 million to establish a program that delivers integrated health care services to pregnant women and new mothers that can reduce the disproportionate rate of maternal deaths among Black non-Hispanic women and adverse maternal health outcomes.

“Black mothers in the United States are facing a public health crisis due to deep systemic racial inequities and Congress has a moral responsibility to act. Maternal mortality in our country is an epidemic, and the dangers to maternal health in Rochester have only been exacerbated by the stress, isolation, and inadequate access to health care that has accompanied the COVID-19 pandemic,” said Senator Gillibrand. “That’s why I’m pushing to establish two new grant programs in the FY22 appropriations package to address inequities in our nation’s maternal health care and support women throughout pregnancy and before, during, and after childbirth. I will always serve as a fierce advocate for women across the country and will fight to ensure that every mother receives high-quality health care regardless of race or socioeconomic status.”

“I am grateful to Senator Gillibrand for undertaking this important work, and I look forward to collaborating with her on these essential programs,” said Rochester Mayor Malik D. Evans. “Putting a spotlight on the racial disparities throughout the healthcare system will do much to honor the Black women who have lost their lives in pregnancy-related deaths and improve Rochester’s rates of maternal mortality.”

“Maternal health care is paramount if we are to have healthy children and families. As Chair of the New York State Senate Committee on Mental Health, I am working to ensure that any conversation about maternal health includes the maternal mental health and the unique mental health needs of prenatal and postnatal birthing parents. Our systems must adjust to equitably serve mothers, especially Black mothers who have historically been underserved. This demands investment in change both at the state and federal level. I’m proud to be working with my colleagues in the state legislature, as well as Senator Kirsten Gillibrand on the federal level to create equitable and effective solutions to maternal health care,” said State Senator Samra Brouk.

“The health and well-being of our children is directly related to the health and well-being of their mothers. Right here in Rochester our rates of maternal mortality exceed even the abysmal numbers we see nation-wide,” said Assemblymember Jen Lensford. “We must do more to provide quality, accessible healthcare to Black women, who are more than three times more likely to die from pregnancy related complications than White women.  We need these investments in maternal health to ensure that families are given every opportunity to grow and thrive. I applaud Senator Gillibrand for fighting to include these critical dollars in the appropriations budget.” 

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 Black mothers. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), approximately 700 pregnancy-related deaths occur in the U.S. each year, many of which are preventable. In the Finger Lakes region, Black women are 51% more likely to die from pregnancy-related complications than white women, and the overall maternal mortality rate in Monroe County is 46% higher than the national average. These risks have only grown over the past year, as COVID-19 presents unique risks for pregnant people and their babies. This disparity transcends income and education status, and cannot be explained away by risk factors such as genetics or lack of health care access. Despite the high number of pregnancy and childbirth complications, CDC studies have found that two out of three of all reported deaths were preventable.

In Senator Gillibrand’s letter to House and Senate Appropriations Committee leaders, she calls for $7 million for evidence-based Implicit Bias Training Grants for medical and nursing school students and other health professionals to reduce bias and errors in judgment or behavior and $25 million to establish a Pregnancy Medical Home Demonstration Program that delivers integrated health care services to pregnant women and new mothers that could help reduce the disproportionate rate of maternal deaths among Black non-Hispanic women and adverse maternal health outcomes.

In addition, Gillibrand is also urging her colleagues to ensure the final FY22 spending package provides funding for several of her maternal health priorities, including at least:

  • $30 million to support uniform data collection through Maternal Mortality Review Committees (MMRCs) that operate in nearly every state to review individual maternal deaths to understand their causes and help identify solutions to prevent these tragic outcomes;
  • $15 million for the Alliance for Innovation on Maternal Health (AIM) Program which provides states and hospital systems with actionable, evidence-based toolkits to improve maternal health outcomes;
  • $5 million for the Maternal Mental Health Hotline, which serves as a critical lifeline for women in need of mental health support during pregnancy and the postpartum period;
  • $10 million for the Screening and Treatment of Maternal Depression and Related Behavioral Disorders Program (MDRBD) to support the training of health care providers to screen, assess, and treat for maternal mental health conditions and provide specialized psychiatric consultation to assist the providers.

Senator Gillibrand is a longtime champion for the health and rights of mothers and their families. She supports the Black Maternal Health Momnibus Act of 2021, which includes her bill, the Moms Matter Act. Gillibrand also supports a host of bills to reduce racial disparities in maternal health including her Maternal CARE Actthe Modernizing Obstetric Medicine Standards (MOMS) Actand Senator Booker’s MOMMIES Act. The senator also co-led the TRICARE Coverage for Doula Support Act in 2020, which helped initiate a pilot program for TRICARE beneficiaries to receive coverage for doula fees as part of the FY21 NDAA. In 2021, she successfully secured $17 million in maternal health care funding in the FY21 appropriations package. The package included a key provision from Gillibrand’s MOMS Act, securing $9 million in federal funding for the AIM program.

To read the full letter, please click here.