Lawmakers call for doula care reimbursement in NYS budget

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ROCHESTER, N.Y. Some New York State lawmakers want to include doula care in this year’s state budget.

A doula is a non-clinical professional who provides emotional and physical support for moms, before during and after birth. They help with the physiological journey of becoming a mother and provide support in ways midwives or OB-GYNs cannot.

Advocates want to expand Medicaid reimbursement to include doula care and said it could lower the maternal mortality rate in our region.

Senator Samra Brouk gathered with mothers, doulas and health professionals on Friday at Jordan Health. Their call for help is urgent, as the budget debates are happening right now.

Brouk said the maternal mortality rate in Monroe County is 40% percent higher than the state average. For Black women, it’s 50% percent higher. Dr. Twylla Dillon with Health Connect One recalls her first birth at age 18.

“I did not have a doula,” she said. “I had a midwife. I had my mom. I had my family, but I didn’t have a doula and I so sorely needed one. Labor was very difficult. It was excruciating. I was threatened with a C-section. I did not feel empowered. I did not feel supported.”

But later in life, she underwent pregnancy a few more times, with the help of a doula. She finally found the support she’d been looking for.

“Mental health is a real struggle in the Black and Brown communities,” she said. “Doulas can help with that.”

“And that carries on to how they parent,” said doula Adriana Lozada. “How they connect with communities, it’s not just about the birth. It’s about the long-term improvements and outcomes.”

Brouk said more needs to be done, but doula care can be part of the solution.

She said this is something that has proven to work for mothers and their birth outcomes – lessening complications, C-sections, and post-partum depression.

“In New York, 78% percent of maternal deaths in Black individuals were declared preventable,” said Brouk. “46% percent of these deaths being directly connected to discrimination.”

She’s calling for Medicaid to reimburse doula care at a rate of $1,930 per birth. The out-of-pocket cost can be up to $2,000.

She said she’s hopeful this could pass in the budget. Other states like Michigan and Maryland have already included provisions for this reimbursement.

New York State has only reimbursed doula care in Erie County, as part of a pilot program.