Michigan's 2021 budget offers more consideration for healthier moms and babies.
Michigan's 2021 budget offers more consideration for healthier moms and babies.

Maternal and infant mortality rates are high in the state. Gov. Gretchen Whitmer is allocating millions to understand the causes—and address them.

LANSING, Mich.—It’s no surprise that daycare centers have taken a hard hit during the coronavirus pandemic. It’s also probably no surprise that mothers, primarily, are feeling the sting of bearing the brunt of that, too, when it comes to child-rearing. 

Jessica McCall-Kailimai, an Oak Park mother of two children under three (plus two older step-daughters) knows that firsthand, as she relied on daycare centers when working as a masters-level social worker.

“Even before the pandemic, child care has been a critically necessary but burdening monthly expense for my family, especially with having young children who require a higher level of care with a higher staff-to-child ratio, which makes their tuition quite expensive,” McCall-Kailimai said. 

Gov. Gretchen Whitmer signed her second budget into law this fall. The budget details a number of her priorities, including funding for the Healthy Moms, Healthy Babies program so that women have the care they need for a healthy pregnancy, and expanding access to child care for families like McCall-Kailimi. 

McCall-Kailimai believes the new budget is promising. 

“An adequate budget for the Healthy Mom, Healthy Babies program is crucial, especially in working to eliminate socio-economic and health disparities that can lead to adverse pregnancy and birth outcomes for mothers and babies,” she said, adding that funding for this program will also prove to be beneficial in reducing the high maternal and infant morbidity and mortality rates among “low income and families of color who often have less access to affordable and quality prenatal care and healthcare in general.” 

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The budget prioritizes for the health of families across Michigan:  

  • $12.6 million for the Healthy Moms, Healthy Babies program to ensure women are given the care they need to have a healthy pregnancy and to expand support for interventions that are proven to improve outcomes.  
  • $26 million to expand access to child care for families by increasing the income limit from 130% to 150% of the federal poverty level, expanding child care services to nearly 6,000 children. 
  • $135 million to extend the $2.00/hour wage increase for direct care workers assisting the elderly and other vulnerable individuals during this especially difficult time. 
  • $10 million to implement foster care policies to keep more children with families rather than entering congregate care. 
  • $2.5 million to provide first responders with the mental health services they need, including treatment for post-traumatic stress disorder.  

“We are incredibly grateful to Gov. Whitmer and the Legislature for making investments in strategies proven to reduce racial disparities in infant and maternal outcomes,” said Dr. Renay Gagleard, board chair for the Michigan Council for Maternal and Child Health

“Extending coverage in the postpartum period will undoubtedly save lives. One in three pregnancy-related deaths occur in the postpartum period, and it’s a critical time for providers to identify mothers who may need help with postpartum depression or to continue treatment for a substance use disorder. This continuity of care will help ensure more babies aren’t left to start their lives without their mother.”  

In McCall-Kailimi’s profession as a family/lifespan therapist (which she has temporarily taken a break from) working for a nonprofit agency, she works with pregnant mothers and families who have young children up to age 6, among other responsibilities. She said that, while the budget has made great strides for important financial needs statewide, a bailout for the child care industry is also needed.

“Not receiving any form of bailout would prove to be detrimental to the child care industry. If there is no bailout received, I see the child care industry taking a long time to recover from this. I feel that this may also affect families who receive child care, as prices would probably double—or even triple—to make up for financial deficits,” she said.

What more should Michigan be aspiring to offer? 

McCall-Kailimi said that additional funding for this program could be geared toward specialized and more efficient transportation for women and families to and from prenatal appointments and well baby/child visits.

McCall-Kailimi said that Whitmer’s gotten it right with her early intervention and prevention programs, which she describes as “key.” 

“Healthy moms and babies equal healthy families which, in turn, equal a healthy state and country,” she said.

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