Virginia birthing center, NY Gov. Kathy Hochul, Doula Services, Black Maternal Mortality Rate

NY Gov. Kathy Hochul Expands Doula Services Statewide To Combat ‘Unacceptable’ Black Maternal Mortality Rate

New York is tackling the maternal mortality rate, which directly impacting Black women, by issuing a statewide standing order for doula services.

New York is tackling the “unacceptable” maternal mortality rate, which disproportionately affects Black women, by issuing a statewide standing order for doula services.

New York Gov. Kathy Hochul signed a new policy on Monday, June 10, that allows residents to pay for doula services through Medicaid, WCAX reports. The expansion comes one year after Gov. Hochul announced legislation directing the State Health Department to create and maintain a directory of doulas in response to high pregnancy-related deaths among Black women despite the state’s continued efforts to reduce maternal mortality.

The governor included funding for doula services in New York State’s fiscal year 2025 enacted budget as part of the legislation.

“I want others to look at what we do here as the model of how we protect moms and babies and give them the world-class healthcare that they deserve, so thank you,” Hochul said.

Hochul addressed the maternal mortality crisis during a roundtable discussion at Bronx Borough Hall with the borough president and midwifery and doula community leaders. Her location was intentional, as the borough currently holds the highest maternity mortality rates in the city.

In what kicked off on March 1, 2024, New York State Medicaid covers the cost of doula services for pregnant, birthing, and postpartum individuals. The services can be accessed through the Department’s directory of doulas enrolled to provide covered services to Medicaid members. Additionally, the Doula Expansion Grant Program will allocate $250,000 to community-based organizations for the recruitment, training, certification, support, and mentoring of community-based doulas.

“Doula services improve birth outcomes and provide families with emotional support during pregnancy, delivery, and following birth,” State Health Commissioner Dr. James McDonald said.

“The number of Black people who die while giving birth is indicative of long-standing health disparities resulting from systemic racism, and this is unacceptable.”

Gov. Hochul announced $8 million in funding for the Morris Heights Health Center in the Bronx to construct a state-of-the-art maternal health center, which is much-needed in the Bronx, where women of color are nine times more likely to die from childbirth than any other borough.

“The State Health Department remains committed to addressing disparities in birth outcomes, eliminating barriers to accessing important health resources, and providing quality resources and support, like doula services, so all people who give birth have pregnancies and deliveries that are safe and empowering,” McDonald added.