Missouri allocates $4.3M to improve maternal health care access, quality



(The Center Square) – Republican Missouri Gov. Mike Parson authorized $4.3 million in funding, approved by the legislature, to improve the health of pregnant women, support care after childbirth, and reduce maternal mortality.

An average of 70 Missouri women died while pregnant or within one year of pregnancy, according to the 2018 to 2020 Pregnancy-Associated Mortality Review by the Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services. The highest number of deaths was 85 in 2020. Missouri was ranked 44th in the nation in maternal mortality.

The 52-page report published earlier this year found the top causes of pregnancy-related death are mental health, including substance use disorders, cardiovascular issues and homicide. Missed clinical interventions to manage conditions like heart disease and barriers to accessing health care also are obstacles.

“By recognizing the need to do better for Missouri mothers, this funding will help us implement a new plan to provide needed support and save lives,” Parson said in a statement.

The pregnancy-related mortality ratio for Black women was three times the ratio of white women in Missouri, according to the report, and 84% of deaths were determined to be preventable, which was 9% higher than the previous multi-year report.

“We must do better for Missouri mothers, and this funding is granting the state unprecedented opportunities to create greater access to quality care,” Paula Nickelson, director of the Department of Health and Senior Services, said in a statement.

Last month, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services announced Missouri was the 40th state to expand comprehensive coverage after pregnancy through Medicaid and the Children’s Health Insurance Program for postpartum individuals for a full 12 months.

Before Parson signed Senate Bill 45 into law, MO HealthNet benefits for low-income pregnant and postpartum women stopped 60 days after after the end of the pregnancy. The federal department estimates an additional 18,000 Missouri women will be eligible for Medicaid for a full year after pregnancy.

Missouri’s new maternal mortality prevention plan will focus on developing and implementing standardized protocols for maternal-fetal health care. New training to better provide care for mental health conditions and substance abuse, along with cardiovascular and other disorders, are being created. Assessment of depression, anxiety and other problems will be added to postpartum care plans. The University of Missouri Health System will work with the state to provide same-day specialized consultation and follow-up care along with ongoing education for rural health care providers.

“It is also crucial that we make an impact with this transformation of perinatal care,” Nickelson said. “The strategies we are employing are based on what has truly worked in other states.”

Parson also announced the Missouri Department of Mental Health was awarded a $687,777 grant from the federal government to continue development of a plan to improve access to maternal health services.

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