Assistant Democratic Leader Tavares speaks on the importance of caring for Ohio's children.

Columbus--Today, Assistant Democratic Leader Charleta B. Tavares (D-Columbus) and Senator Shannon Jones (R-Springboro) announced today at Grace Missionary Baptist Church the introduction of a bipartisan legislative package to fight Ohio's high rate of infant deaths. 

Ohio currently ranks 48th in the nation in its overall infant mortality rate and 49th among African Americans. 

"Right now, Ohio is coming in nearly last in the nation for infant mortality, which is an unacceptable standard," said Jones. "We lose too many babies in Ohio before they reach their first birthday and many of these cases can be prevented with proper training and education. Today, we are launching a statewide effort designed to engage community leaders, healthcare professionals, and families on how we can all be a part of the solution to this heartbreaking problem." 

Assistant Democratic Leader Tavares joined Senator Jones, who chairs the Senate Standing Committee on Medicaid, Health, and Human Services, and other committee members on a statewide tour in 2013 to better understand the infant mortality problem and needs associated with it and to learn more about local efforts to combat the issue. Senators Tavares and Jones also jointly sponsored Senate Bill 198, which designates each October as "Sudden Infant Death Syndrome Awareness Month." 

"This is the next step in moving our state up in protecting the health and safety of our infant," stated Tavares. "We are focusing our attention on strategies that work and building a clearinghouse to identify and develop new promising practices to eliminate infant death."

The senators will jointly introduce five separate pieces of legislation, each intended to combat a particular portion of infant mortality. Those bills include: 

Senate Bill 276: Improving Safe Sleep Education

This bill will provide an update to "Claire's Law", which currently requires Shaken Baby Syndrome education be given to all parents, by also requiring safe sleep education materials to be distributed to new parents. 

Senate Bill 277: The Infant Mortality Commission

Establishes a commission to inventory state services, resources, and their funding streams available to address Ohio's high rate of infant deaths. The commission will also: 

  • Determine potential connections between statewide programs and local or community-based programs.
  • Include four legislators (two House, two Senate) a Public Health Commissioner, a coroner or someone who conducts death scene investigations, two representatives from community-based programs, the Director (or his or her designee) of the Ohio Department of Medicaid, the Director (or his or her designee) of the Ohio Department of Health, the Director (or his or her designee) of the Office of Health Transformation, the Director (or his or her designee) of the Ohio Commission on Minority Health, and the Attorney General (or his or her designee).

Senate Bill 278: Understanding SIDS

The legislation will require the use of the Sudden Unexplained Infant Death Incident (SUIDI) Reporting Form whenever a child one year of age or younger dies suddenly when thought to be in good health. This will help the state better understand the causes behind SIDS and devise new strategies for preventing those deaths. 

Senate Bill 279: Health Center Pilot Project

This bill would establish a two-year pilot program using the model of Centering Pregnancy to improve birth outcomes at four Federally Qualified Health Centers. It also sets aside $500,000 in both fiscal years 2015 and 2016 to fund the pilot program. 

Senate Bill 280: Postpartum Care & Reimbursement for Non-Medical Services

This legislation would require case management services for postpartum care be included in the Medicaid managed care system. It would also set aside $25 million from Medicaid savings that will be granted by the Ohio Department of Health for community-based services that are not covered by Medicaid and are intended to reduce infant mortality. 

The senators announced the legislative initiatives at a press conference held at Moms2B, a unique, Columbus-area program that is designed to mentor pregnant women in having healthy pregnancies, deliveries, and babies. Dr. Pat Gabbe, the program's clinical director highlighted how the pending legislation would strengthen local efforts to reduce infant mortality and shine additional light on the tragic issue. 

"I'm delighted that Senators Jones and Tavares have taken up the critical issue of infant mortality in Ohio," said Dr. Pat Gabbe, clinical professor of pediatrics at The Ohio State University of College Medicine. "At Moms2B, we help women every day who are so resilient despite the barriers they face--barriers to healthy food, good transportation, social support and a healthy pregnancy. Our goal is to help women in poverty have healthy, full-term babies. They deserve that."

The bills will receive their first reading on the Senate Floor on Wednesday, February 12th and be later referred to a Senate Committee for further consideration. 

For additional facts on infant mortality in Ohio and information on the legislation, click here.

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