June 10, 2024
Albany, NY

Governor Hochul Announces Funding to Expand Bronx Maternal Health Care Center and Takes Action to Increase Access to Doulas

Governor Hochul Announces Funding to Expand Bronx Maternal Health Care Center and Takes Action to Increase Access to Doulas

$8 Million Capital Commitment to Expand Healthcare Clinic With All-Inclusive and Integrated Programming, Including a Maternal Health Center of Excellence

New Standing Order Issued by NYS Commissioner of Health Expands Access to Doula Services Statewide

Roundtable Discussion Highlights New York’s First-in-the-Nation Prenatal Paid Leave Program and New Policy to Reduce Cost of Prenatal Care For Over a Million Low-Income New Yorkers

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Governor Kathy Hochul today announced an $8 million capital commitment to help fund a project to expand a Morris Heights Health Center clinic, which will have all-inclusive and integrated programming and a maternal health Center of Excellence. The Governor announced the new funding while hosting a roundtable with Bronx Borough President Vanessa Gibson, which included other elected officials and stakeholders to discuss ongoing efforts to improve infant and maternal health across the state and make prenatal care more accessible and affordable for New Yorkers. The Governor emphasized the importance of advancing these efforts in the Bronx, which has some of the highest maternal and infant mortality rates in New York State. During the roundtable, the Governor also announced that the State Health Commissioner Dr. James McDonald issued a standing order which will expand access to much-needed doula services for birthing parents across the state. Governor Hochul also highlighted that New York is now the first state in the nation to create a paid family leave program for prenatal care. New York has also made prenatal care more affordable for over a million low-income residents by eliminating out-of-pocket costs for certain pregnancy-related benefits for New Yorkers on the Essential Plan or Qualified Health Plans.

“As New York’s first mom Governor, taking on the infant and maternal mortality crisis is personal for me,” Governor Hochul said. “Being pregnant should not be a death sentence. My administration is making prenatal care more accessible and affordable for millions of New Yorkers, and we’re going to keep working every day to support healthy pregnancies for families across our state.”


Additional participants at the roundtable included Morris Heights Health Center President and CEO Mari Millet, Activist Bruce McIntyre III, BronxWorks CEO Eileen Torres, Bronx Rebirth Collective Workers Nicole Jean Baptiste and Evelyn Álvarez, Northern Manhattan Perinatal Partnership Center Madeleine Dorval, Councilmember Pieriena Sanchez, Assemblymember Yudelka Tapia and Deputy Bronx Borough President Janet Peguero.

A CDC report recently found that in 2021 the infant mortality rate nationally was 5.4 deaths per 1,000 live births. In 2021, approximately 20,000 infants died in the United States, with the leading causes being birth defects, preterm birth and low birth weight, sudden infant death syndrome, injuries and maternal pregnancy complications. A report from The Commonwealth Fund found that in 2022 there were approximately 22 maternal deaths for every 100,000 live births in the U.S with Black women having the highest rates of mortality.

Funding to Expand Maternal Health Care at Morris Heights Health Center

Governor Hochul announced an $8 million capital commitment to Morris Heights Health Center. This funding will enable Morris Heights Health Center to expand its health care services in University Heights, including a maternal health Center of Excellence. The project will help increase access to affordable high-quality health care for local residents and improve health outcomes for underserved patient communities.

Morris Heights Health Center specializes in supporting vulnerable subpopulations, such as individuals living with HIV, pregnant people with socioeconomic challenges, people with chronic diseases including uncontrolled diabetes, older adults with co-morbidities, and adolescents with psychosocial concerns. The center’s maternal health services include a midwife/doula model of care, Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC), and the Maternal Health and Hope Coalition.

My administration is making prenatal care more accessible and affordable for millions of New Yorkers, and we’re going to keep working every day to support healthy pregnancies."

Governor Kathy Hochul

Expanding Access to Doulas

Today, the State Commissioner of Health issued a statewide standing order for doula services, expanding access for all birthing parents. The standing order – secured by Governor Hochul in the FY 2025 Enacted Budget – will allow more New Yorkers to access doula care because a recommendation for doula services is required in order to be eligible for Medicaid coverage. This standing order will serve as that recommendation. The standing order will also make it easier for birthing parents enrolled in other health plans to access doula care. Doulas provide physical, emotional, educational, and non-medical support for pregnant and postpartum individuals before, during, and after childbirth.

Despite continued efforts to reduce maternal mortality, especially among racial and ethnic minorities, the rate of pregnancy-related deaths is still far too high in New York State, especially among Black people who give birth. As of March 1, 2024, New York State Medicaid covers doula services for pregnant, birthing, and postpartum people. To support access to services, the Department maintains a directory of doulas enrolled to provide covered services to Medicaid members, pursuant to legislation signed last year by Governor Hochul. Additionally, the Doula Expansion Grant Program, secured in the FY 2025 Enacted Budget, will allow the Department to award $250,000 to community-based organizations for the recruitment, training, certification, support, and/or mentoring of community-based doulas.

Labor and delivery can present a high medical risk to pregnant persons and their newborn(s). Doula services will help to address the statewide crisis of racial and income-based maternal health disparities by providing culturally competent and comprehensive social, emotional, and physical support to clients during the prenatal, birthing, end of pregnancy and postpartum periods.

First-In-the-Nation Prenatal Paid Leave

By mandating a separate sick leave bank for prenatal care, Governor Hochul ensured that New York is going further than any other state to ensure pregnant individuals can receive the health care needed to create healthy outcomes for parent and child without jeopardizing employment.

When the policy takes effect on January 1, 2025, employees will receive an additional 20 hours of paid sick leave for prenatal care in addition to their existing sick leave.

This initiative builds on Governor Hochul’s previous actions to support new parents and improve maternal health outcomes. The FY 2024 Enacted Budget established 12 weeks of paid parental leave benefits to more than 80 percent of the state workforce and extended postpartum coverage for up to a full year for Medicaid and Child Health Plus enrollees.

Eliminating Out-Of-Pocket Costs

As part of the FY 2025 Enacted Budget, the Governor took steps to eliminate cost-sharing for certain pregnancy-related benefits, such as prenatal and postpartum visits, for those enrolled in the state’s Essential Plan or Qualified Health Plans.

The Essential Plan covers more than 1 million low-income New Yorkers, providing comprehensive benefits with $0 monthly premiums, no deductible, and low-cost sharing. It also includes free preventive care, adult vision, and dental care without cost-sharing.

Eligibility for the Essential Plan was limited to New Yorkers with incomes above Medicaid levels and up to 200 percent of FPL ($30,000 annual income for an individual). But through the recently approved 1332 State Innovation Waiver, the Essential Plan was expanded to include New Yorkers with incomes up to 250 percent of the FPL ($37,650 annual income for an individual), making the program available to an additional 100,000 New Yorkers once fully implemented. This includes nearly 70,000 New Yorkers enrolled in Qualified Health Plans who will now be eligible for significantly more affordable coverage through the Essential Plan, 12,000 DACA individuals currently enrolled in Medicaid/CHPlus, and approximately 20,500 currently uninsured New Yorkers.

Governor Hochul Announces Funding to Expand Bronx Maternal Health Care Center and Takes Action to Increase Access to Doulas

New York State Health Commissioner Dr. James McDonald said, “Expanding access to potentially lifesaving resources, like doula services, can help advance health equity. Sadly, there are still health disparities in maternal health. Black people who give birth are more likely to die of pregnancy related complications than White people who give birth, and this is unacceptable. The Department, with the support of Governor Hochul, remains committed to addressing maternal health and eliminating barriers in healthcare so all people who give birth have safe pregnancies and deliveries.”

State Senator Gustavo Rivera said, ""I am so pleased that Morris Heights Health Center will significantly expand and enhance health services in my district for our Bronx community. I want to thank Governor Hochul for the $8 million in funding to support this important health institution and its comprehensive programs to address the diverse needs of our residents."

Assemblymember Yudelka Tapia said, "Governor Hochul's $8 million investment in Be Well @ Morris Heights Health Center, a new integrated health center in the Bronx, is a testament to her commitment in improving maternal health and ensuring the well-being of disadvantaged communities. The Morris Heights neighborhood and surrounding areas suffer from significant maternal and child health disparities including high rates of late or no prenatal care and teen births. This 62,000-square-foot facility will provide comprehensive care to disadvantaged families and will serve over 48,000 individuals annually. With the Governor’s investment, we are setting a new standard for health equity in New York State."

NYC Councilmember Pierina Sanchez said, “It is a moral imperative to close the gap on Black maternal mortality, and it is achievable with proper policies and investments, like those Governor Hochul is announcing today. I’m proud to stand with the governor to announce funding that will expand maternal health services at a brand-new integrative wellness center at Morris Heights Health Center (MHHC), in which my office and Speaker Adrienne E. Adams invested $7 million. I am also proud to support the standing order for doula access and NYS’s paid family leave program, given the many roadblocks or flat denial of life-saving opportunities of having a doula by our side in our most beautiful and vulnerable moment of childbirth, myself included. I am thrilled at today’s announcements and look forward to continued work on policies that would expand access to institutional and community setting midwifery care as well.”

Bronx Borough Borough President Vanessa L. Gibson said, “When analyzing the issues around maternal mortality and morbidity, it is clear that there is a maternal health crisis that is disproportionately affecting Black birthing people in our borough. To effectively address this issue, we are eliminating barriers that prevent our residents from receiving culturally sensitive, patient-centered care that is attuned to their unique needs and free of bias and racism that has resulted in the preventable deaths of too many pregnant people. I want to thank Governor Hochul for her capital investment in a new Maternal Health Center of Excellence, her legislation creating a state doula directory and for allocating $4.5 million to support the state’s Regional Perinatal Centers, to provide high-level perinatal and infant care throughout our state. Together, with our partners in government, Maternal Health Consortium, and birthing advocates, we are committed to supporting healthy pregnancies and improving our borough's health infrastructure.”

Morris Heights Health Center President and CEO Mari Millet said, “We are extremely grateful to Governor Hochul for making it possible for us to expand much-needed maternal health services for the Bronx community. As the Bronx continues to struggle with inequitable health outcomes, our team is focused on approaching the problem from an integrative perspective. By expanding our facilities and services, we will be better positioned to care for our community through a combination of high-quality medical, specialty and support services which address all social drivers of health.”

Contact the Governor’s Press Office

Contact us by phone:

Albany: (518) 474 - 8418
New York City: (212) 681 - 4640


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