U.S. Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand brought her message about the need to maternal health care to Huntington on Thursday.
Standing with Rebecca Sanin, president and CEO of the Health and Welfare Council of Long Island at the organization’s headquarters in Huntington Station, the Democratic senator said that legislation and nearly $180 million in federal funding is urgently needed to address the country’s maternal mortality and maternal mental health crisis.
Studies regularly report that the American maternal death rate is the worst among wealthy nations, and in particular, is sharply higher for mothers in communities of color.
Gillibrand noted that the Suffolk maternal death rate is 15% higher than the state average, based on data from the Department of Health.
“More people in the United States die from pregnancy-related complications than in any of our peer countries – this is outrageous and downright shameful. We must do more to support and listen to women and pregnant people at every step of their maternal health journey,” Gillibrand said. “I’m fighting to include nearly $180 million in the end-of-year spending bill to help implement evidence-based health care standards for all women, no matter their race or ethnicity. I’m also pushing to pass the Moms Matter Act to provide critical mental health and substance use disorder support to pregnant people and moms. I will never stop fighting to ensure every mother is heard and gets high-quality health care — no matter their race, socioeconomic status, or zip code.”
David Nemiroff, president and CEO of Harmony Healthcare Long Island and the founders of Birth Justice Warriors Dr. Martine Hackett and Dr. Nellie Taylor Walthrust joined Sanin and Gillibrand to delivere a similar message.
“The Moms Matter Act would provide much needed support to address the issue of maternal mental health conditions and substance use disorders in the United States,” Hackett and Walthrust said, noting that the Black maternal death rate is nearly three times that of White women.
The average maternal mortality rate in Suffolk County is 15% higher than the state average, according to data from the Department of Health.
“The Moms Matter Act will provide desperately needed resources to support the mental health and well-being of new mothers that historically face systemic barriers to accessing services. Addressing the disparities in health access and outcomes is a vital priority that impacts the psychological well-being of families and the social and economic well-being of communities. Senator Gillibrand’s leadership on supporting new mothers will create a legacy of healthier families, communities, schools and society,” Sanin said.
Gillibrand’s comments were the second time in two days that experts have pointed out the urgent need to improve mental health care; on Wednesday, several noted that drug addiction often is rooted in mental or emotional health problems, and likely a factor in higher than normal death rates.