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Shapiro Administration Visits Neighborhood Health Centers of the Lehigh Valley, Highlights Historic Efforts to Improve Maternal Health Across Pennsylvania

Governor Shapiro secured a historic $2.3 million to study and implement recommendations for preventing maternal mortality in the 2023-24 budget, and his 2024-25 budget proposal invests an additional $2.6 million to address and prevent maternal mortality.

04/19/2024

Allentown, PA - Today, Acting Secretary of Health Dr. Debra Bogen, Secretary of Human Services Dr. Val Arkoosh, and Deputy Secretary of Drug and Alcohol Programs Kelly Primus joined state and local leaders at Neighborhood Health Centers of the Lehigh Valley to highlight efforts to improve maternal health and care for mothers and children, especially among people of color.

 

Maternal health is a concern nationally, with the rate of pregnancy-associated deaths on the rise in recent years. In Pennsylvania, there are 83 pregnancy-associated deaths per 100,000 live births. Black women are nearly two times more likely to die during pregnancy or in the first year after pregnancy than white women.

 

“The tragic reality is that maternal mortality is far too common in the U.S. and Pennsylvania, and disproportionately impacts Black women and their families,” said Acting Secretary of Health Dr. Bogen. “Every death of a new mother impacts their entire community, that’s why the Shapiro-Davis Administration is fully committed to tackling maternal health issues that are affecting women across the state. The Department of Health is using current funding to support organizations and local coalitions to implement recommendations of the Maternal Mortality Review Committee, focusing on better coordination of physical and behavioral health care and social services. We aim to support programs that specifically address black maternal health so that investments are made respectfully and appropriately to eliminate the unacceptable disparities in maternal health outcomes.”

 

 

In the 2023-2024 budget, Governor Josh Shapiro secured a historic $2.3 million to implement recommendations for preventing maternal mortality. The 2024-25 proposed budget doubles down on that work by investing an additional $2.6 million to address and prevent maternal mortality, especially among Black mothers.

 

“A mother’s health and experiences through their pregnancy and the postpartum period can have life-long implications for themselves and their child. High quality, accessible, and empathetic health care are essential through this critical time, and we must ensure that this is the standard in Pennsylvania,” said Secretary of Human Services Dr. Val Arkoosh. “The Shapiro-Davis Administration is committed to supporting our partners across the Commonwealth to reach this shared goal, and we are committed to better care and a better future for all mothers and children.”

 

Recent maternal health achievements include launching the new Pennsylvania Department of Health’s Division of Maternal Health, which supports the administration of the Maternal Mortality Review Committee (MMRC).

 

“The Shapiro Administration knows that substance use disorder is a family illness that impacts mother, baby, and entire family units,” said Kelly Primus, Deputy Secretary of Drug and Alcohol Programs. “DDAP is a proud partner in the multi-agency effort that’s committed to reducing maternal mortality, improving care for pregnant and postpartum women, and stopping the stigma attached to reaching out for help.”

 

Earlier this month, the Department of Health announced $1.8 million in grants for community-based organizations to develop and lead regional coalitions that will select and implement recommendations from the 2024 Pennsylvania Maternal Mortality Review Committee (MMRC) report, to improve maternal health at the local level. More information about the application process is available online.

 

In October 2023, Governor Shapiro signed senator Judy Schwank’s Senate Bill 262 into law to ensure improved access to timely data on maternal health and maternal mortality in Pennsylvania, allowing researchers, doctors, and policymakers to make more informed decisions about medical care for moms and families. SB 262 amended the Maternal Mortality Review Act to require the Department of Health to annually publish severe maternal morbidity data using hospital discharge data obtained from the PA Health Care Cost Containment Council (PHC4) to protect women’s health and deliver more transparency into the causes of maternal mortality, especially among Black mothers who often have the highest mortality rates.

 

For 20 years, Neighborhood Health Centers of the Lehigh Valley has provided primary care for the uninsured and/or underinsured residents of the Lehigh Valley, operating sites in downtown Allentown, Northside Bethlehem, Southside Bethlehem, and Easton’s West Ward and offering a variety of women’s health care services.

 

Editor’s Note: Video downloads and photos from the news conference are available on PAcast.

 

MEDIA CONTACT: Mark O'Neill - ra-dhpressoffice@pa.gov

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