This week, NewDEAL Leader New Castle County, DE Executive Matt Meyer announced a new initiative to support disadvantaged first-time mothers with access to health care. The program is financed using the innovative Pay for Success funding model, pioneered in the U.S. by NewDEAL Alum, former Salt Lake County, UT Mayor Ben McAdams, who used this approach to tackle issues like early childhood education, homelessness, and criminal justice reform. Other NewDEALers, including Mayor Hancock in Denver, have seen success in addressing homelessness using Pay for Success, which involves a funder from outside government making the initial investment in a project and government funds kicking in when certain milestones are achieved. Read more about the new program in Delaware and its goal of serving 120 Medicaid-eligible first-time mothers over four years.
This week, NewDEAL Leader Burlington, VT Mayor Miro Weinberger reached an agreement with the city workers’ union that would make Burlington the first city in Vermont to offer paid family leave. The leave benefit will be offered immediately, with city workers eligible for four weeks of fully paid leave, and will scale up each year to add additional weeks of available leave at 60 percent payment. Check out an article for more details about this important benefit, which the mayor notes will help retain workers.
Women continue to face barriers to achieving equitable outcomes across numerous sectors including their career and healthcare. The American Economic Association found that the additional time mothers take to be home with their child makes them less likely to be promoted, obtain a management position, or acquire a pay raise once their leave has concluded. Moreover, they are at a higher risk of being laid off or demoted. Furthermore, the National Center for Health Statistics found that in 2020, the maternal mortality rate was 23.8 deaths per 100,000 live births in comparison to 20.1 in 2019. However, black women are three times more likely to die from a pregnancy-related cause than white women.
Louisville Mayor Greg Fischer announced steps to develop a Commission on Gender Equity. A task force will conduct community outreach to help structure a commission that will work to break down barriers that continue to limit opportunities for women in the community. The Commission’s work will build on efforts started during the mayor’s tenure, such as the Healthy Babies Louisville Initiative to decrease maternal and child morbidity, as well as paid parental leave for Louisville Metro Government employees.
Novel Strategy to Address Mental Health and Homelessness
This week, Santa Cruz County, CA Supervisors, including NewDEAL Leader Ryan Coonerty, unanimously approved a new strategy for addressing mental illness among homeless individuals in the county. The “Mental Health Services Act Innovation Plan” aims to enroll approximately 600 people experiencing homelessness. The program will send field teams to meet participants where they are and provide clinical and case management services to both address mental health concerns and help transition participants into permanent housing. The program will help the County plot a permanent response that could serve as a model for other localities. Read more here.
Wyoming is more than just rural – it is a frontier state that lacks the larger scale infrastructure common in other states. Wyoming lacks a coordinated statewide healthcare system. There is no statewide university system. Opportunities can be scarce for advancement, and women in particular face many barriers to self-sufficiency. Women face hurdles to entering and remaining in the workforce and communities struggle to offer enough child care to meet the demands. When child care is available, affordability is a challenge. Communities are not only isolated but also dispersed, making available infrastructure largely inaccessible. Compound this with a high gender wage gap, workforce recruitment challenges, and a volatile economy subjected to the boom-bust cycles of the energy industry.
Co-locating child care facilities with community college and agriculture extension offices in communities around Wyoming to create a network of Community Care Sites. This will support affordable child care for parents – especially women – who wish to return to school or work. This will support the growth of an early education workforce to ensure quality and sustainability as students in early education programs can work at the child care facilities. It will attract businesses to the state, helping to diversify Wyoming’s economy, and it will support economic growth as women are able to return to the workforce. Co-locating the facilities also helps expand the idea of institutions of learning as centers for community growth and assists with the often-prohibitive infrastructure costs of building or renovating a site into a code compliant child care facility. It can facilitate easy access to high speed internet for individuals and families that still need those final miles of broadband. It is an opportunity to complete the education circle.
As in most states, Virginia’s public school buses are run on diesel fuels that produce carcinogens like Benzene and particulate matter (PM 2.5) which increase the risk of asthma and heart disease. Studies have found these toxins are present up to six times higher inside a diesel school bus, thereby exposing our youngest citizens to serious health issues. Among children ages 5-17, asthma is one of the top causes of their missed school days. Additionally, the transportation sector is responsible for 48% of Virginia’s carbon emissions and Virginia has the second-largest school bus fleet in the country. The Union of Concerned Scientists found that buses that operate on electric batteries have 67% lower life-cycle emissions than diesel, even when purchasing electricity from a utility.
My solution is to encourage local schools to convert to electric school buses using state incentives. To reduce both the health and climate aspects from the continued reliance on diesel school buses, I recently passed a bill to create the “Virginia Electric Vehicle Grant Program and Fund.” The new fund would support awarding competitive grants to local public schools to replace diesel school buses with electric versions, and to pay for the charging infrastructure, and for using labor-union trained workers to support maintenance. Based on the criteria of the Fund and Program, additional funds may support similar projects proposed by public, private, or nonprofit entities in Virginia to assist with replacing any commercial motor vehicle, heavy equipment, or other machinery that are used in Virginia that rely on diesel fuels with electric vehicles or equivalent equipment that reduce air emissions.
Kentucky is in a maternal mortality crisis. The rate of Kentucky women dying from pregnancy-related causes is more than double the national average, with the United States being last in maternal health outcomes among wealthy countries. This crisis is even worse for Black Kentuckians, for whom the infant mortality rate is almost double that of white Kentuckians, while maternal mortality is three to four times higher.
In 2021, the Kentucky House Democratic Women’s Caucus filed a slate of 21 bills and resolutions designed to raise awareness of the maternal health crisis in our Commonwealth and improve health outcomes for birthing people and infants across Kentucky. The bills cover five broad areas: care for families, mental health, incarceration, access to care, and health equity. Examples of the proposed bills are: Requiring Medicaid to cover the cost of midwives and doulas, who are able to provide a less stressful birth environment and fewer health complications; Expanding the current assistance program for families having their first child (HANDS) to include maternal and postpartum depression referrals and services; Extending Medicaid coverage for up to a year for postpartum-related health issues (currently ends after 60 days); Establishing pregnancy as a qualifying event for health insurance to increase access to prenatal care for those who otherwise may not have health insurance; Removing sales taxes on breastfeeding equipment and having insurance cover these costs; Authorizing a maternal, fetal, and infant mortality working group; Establishing insurance coverage for maternal depression screenings at pediatric visits; Creating a child mental health services access program; Expanding access to pregnancy-related services for incarcerated women.
Tackling the Overdose Crisis in Colorado
Colorado’s overdose death toll in 2020 was the worst in more than two decades, an increase of nearly 38% from the year before. NewDEAL Leader Colorado Senator Brittany Pettersen, whose mother once struggled with opioid addiction, said that the epidemic “makes me angry, frustrated, heartbroken, but also gives me strength to keep fighting.” Senator Pettersen is the chair of her state’s Behavioral Health Transformation Task Force and will be influential in the allocation of approximately $450 million in federal funding for COVID-related mental health and substance abuse needs. Pettersen hopes to make transformational investments to Colorado’s substance use benefit for Medicaid patients and improved access to fentanyl test strips. Read more about her work with the Task Force, and why she finds it so personally meaningful.
New Mental Health Commission in Florida
This week, NewDEAL Leader Florida Representative Christine Hunschofsky was appointed to serve on a new Commission on Mental Health and Substance Abuse. The Commission will explore Florida’s mental health and substance abuse care programs and make recommendations on how to improve the effectiveness of these practices. Upon her appointment, Representative Hunschofsky said, “The worldwide pandemic has exacerbated the mental health and substance abuse crises in our state, and it’s critical we begin our work to address the important need for our state.” For more from NewDEALers on the importance of focusing on mental health, listen to a recent episode of NewDEAL’s podcast featuring West Virginia Senate Minority Leader John Unger, who discussed the mental health crisis that emerged alongside the COVID pandemic and why it is important to invest in what he calls “human infrastructure.”
A Modern Healthcare Model in Delaware
NewDEAL Leader Delaware Senator Sarah McBride sponsored and advocated for the Telehealth Access Preservation and Modernization Act of 2021, which has been signed into law by Governor John Carney. The law codifies and expands Delaware residents’ access to telehealth services and, through the adoption of the Interstate Medical Licensure Compact, ensures that telehealth services can be provided through qualified medical practitioners in a streamlined and efficient manner that meets today’s health care delivery system needs. Senator McBride highlighted that families in rural communities will be able to access telehealth via audio-only services, even if they struggle with reliable internet. She also emphasized that, because of the new law, “a single working mom will be able to better communicate with her provider after hours” and “people with disabilities will face diminished barriers to care.”