Governor signs bill to expand access to doula care

Legislation will create state doula directory

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Governor Kathy Hochul signed legislation Monday directing the Department of Health to create a statewide community doula directory. The directory is aimed at ensuring that new and growing families can find a qualified doula — a professional who provides guidance to a pregnant person and their partner — who meets their needs.

The legislation was introduced in the Senate by Sen. Samra Brouk and in the Assembly by Assemblymember Michaelle Solages.

According to Brouk’s office, the directory is a critical part of expanding access to doula care for Medicaid recipients, as New York plans to implement a Medicaid benefit for doula care in January 2024. Of all births in New York, 46% are covered by Medicaid, and more than 65% of those births are to Black women, according to data from Brouk’s office. The state’s maternal mortality review board found that Black women are five times more likely to die from a pregnancy complication than their white counterparts; 46% of those deaths are directly linked to discrimination; and more than three quarters were declared preventable, according to Brouk’s office.

Phyllis Sharp, owner of Royalty Birth Services, said, “Some people are high-risk and they just want someone extra there to help support them, some people have zero support and for those people who have zero support we are here for them and to help guide them.”

Brouk said the bill becomes law today, and the Department of Health will start creating this directory and building this infrastructure for Medicaid reimbursement — and starting in 2024, yes, the Medicaid reimbursement will go into effect for anyone under Medicaid who receives doula care in New York.

Regarding reaction she has heard from doulas and mothers, she added: “I think they’re all excited — so right now any mother or birthing person looking for doula care, it’s all private pay, which means if you can’t access that type of funds, or you can’t afford it, you don’t get a doula. On the flip side, a lot of doulas can barely support themselves because they don’t have this equitable rate of reimbursement. So this is a tremendous moment where we’re both trying to bolster the community of doulas, who work so hard, but also the birthing people in New York who are looking for more support.”