ELLICOTT CITY, MD –- Howard County Executive Calvin Ball was joined by state officials, the La Alianza Workgroup, African American Community Roundtable, CASA, local health care partners and others to announce a transformational $1.3 million maternal health program to ensure vital prenatal and postpartum care is available and affordable for uninsured and underinsured women in Howard County. Photos of the event can be found here. Video can be found here.
With prenatal care, doctors can spot and treat maternal health problems early, and discuss with pregnant women how to give their unborn children a healthy start to life. The program will expand care to approximately 300 women annually and includes:
- Training doulas to provide guidance and support to women during labor
- Providing direct support to pregnant women and new moms on breastfeeding, healthy eating, postpartum and more
- Expanding nurse home visits for new moms
- And supporting teen parents with educational, daycare, and health needs
Howard County is one of the healthiest communities in our nation, but we still have challenges to address. Hispanic mothers in Howard County are four times more likely to receive insufficient prenatal care as white mothers, putting their health and the health of their babies at risk. That’s unacceptable, and today we are doing something about it. Our innovative program will truly be lifesaving. We will help uninsured and underinsured access care and overcome obstacles. This is an important step in building a healthier community for all.
The $1.3 million funding is included in Ball’s proposed Fiscal Year 2023 operating budget to develop a cohesive wrap-around model with partners and providers that will:
- Improve early access to a respectful prenatal care experience for reproductive-aged women of color
- Decrease disparities in pre-term and low birth weight births
- Promote equitable access to bias-free and culturally congruent prenatal and post-partum support services
In the Howard County Community Health Needs assessment from 2019, data showed that almost 12% of Hispanic mothers and 8% of Black mothers in Howard County received late prenatal care, or no prenatal care at all. In the case of Hispanic mothers, that’s more than four times the percentage of white mothers. According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), babies of mothers who do not get prenatal care are three times more likely to have a low birth weight and five times more likely to dies than those born to mother who do get care.
“Earlier this year we passed the Healthy Babies Act, which will extend prenatal and postnatal care to uninsured pregnant women and their babies regardless of their immigration status,” said Senator Clarence Lam. “However, we may be waiting for the next governor before the state’s Medicaid program will fully expand this important coverage, while hundreds of mothers and babies may go without prenatal and postnatal care. That’s why this $1.3 million investment in Howard County is so important - all Howard County mothers and babies can have access to prenatal care, so that until the state fully implements the Healthy Babies Act, we won’t have stories like we heard today of limited access to care.”
“In 2022, in the State of Maryland, in Howard County, there should be no mother that goes without prenatal care,” said Delegate Courtney Watson. “It’s our moral responsibility to take care of pregnant and expectant women. The Healthy Babies Act provides prenatal care to the mother and coverage for her new baby for up to one year. If our governor fails to fund this important program, we know that County Executive Ball has our back with this significant investment.”
“Prenatal care should not be something you should only get if you are privileged – if you only have a certain job or come from a certain place,” Dr. Leia Medlock of Onyx Medical Group, and a member of the African-American Community Roundtable. “Prenatal is not just for mom’s and babies it’s for our entire community. There are many insurance companies that will not take on a mother and cover prenatal services if she’s pregnant in the first year of insurance. So this is not just for those who are undocumented, but women who are hair dressers, work at fast food restaurants, who are born in this country and still don’t have prenatal care because they can’t afford insurance because it is so expensive.”
“For many of the years I practiced medicine, I worked in underserved communities, so I’ve seen firsthand the effect of having access to care - it’s incredibly important,” said Dr. Shafeeq Ahmed, President of Howard County General Hospital. “I’m very glad to be in a county that is this forward thinking and have state representatives that are this forward thinking about making sure this is a priority. Howard County General Hospital looks forward to partnering on this initiative.”
“Chase Brexton could not expand its commitment to this community without these resources,” said Patrick Mutch, President and CEO of Chase Brexton. “We see about 10,000 patients here in Howard County, 70% of them are uninsured - that is a heavy lift. These resources will enable us to expand our maternal and childcare efforts. These moms who are being seen in other centers back to Howard County – thank you for these critical investments to continue our mission.”
"Howard County's inclusive program is a relief for all families, especially immigrant families like mine,” said Iris Rivera CASA member, advocate, and new mom. Rivera didn't have health insurance during her pregnancy, which meant traveling to a Baltimore City clinic for out-of-pocket care. “Families should be enjoying what should be a very special time in an expecting parent's life; they should focus on their babies and their future, instead of stressing over unaffordable medical attention. I had to ask for rides or catch expensive ubers to get prenatal care in Baltimore City. Thank you for supporting women like me and small children like my Daniela."
“Mi comunidad latina es de unidad y fuerza, juntos podemos hacer que el gobierno nos escuche, que se entere de nuestras necesidades, y que trabaje con nosotros como la está haciendo el ejecutivo Calvin Ball dándonos 1.3 millones de dólares para crear el programa prenatal del condado de Howard que beneficiará a las madres documentadas e indocumentadas, elegibles y no elegibles para seguro médico, que somos parte vital y esencial del desarrollo de este condado y país,” said Cris Oviedo, Chair of the La Alianza Workgroup.
“Re-establishing a maternity clinic that will see ALL women in Howard County is long overdue,” said Nikki Highsmith Vernick, president and CEO of the Horizon Foundation. “We thank all of our partners who have fought this for the last 10 years and the County Administration for making it happen. Together, we will ensure that all women in Howard County can receive quality prenatal and postpartum care so they can have healthy pregnancies and healthy babies.”