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For immediate release: May 2, 2024
Phone: 5184748418

Governor Hochul Highlights Statewide Efforts to Improve Maternal and Infant Health

New York Becomes First State in the Nation to Create Paid Leave Program for Prenatal Care; Separate from Existing 12 Weeks of Paid Family Leave
Doula Services Now Covered for Pregnant and Postpartum Medicaid Members Since March
FY 2025 Enacted Budget Eliminates Out-Of-Pocket Costs for Certain Pregnancy-Related Benefits for New Yorkers on Essential Plan, Qualified Health Plans
Maternal Mental Health Initiatives Receive $1.6 Million in New Resources in FY 2025 Enacted Budget
Governor Kathy Hochul today highlighted New York State’s status as the first state in the nation to enact a stand-alone prenatal leave policy as part of the FY 2025 Enacted Budget. As part of her broader plan to improve maternal and infant mortality, the Governor also established statewide Medicaid coverage for doulas, created the state’s first doula directory to assist pregnant New Yorkers seeking support, and has taken steps to eliminate cost-sharing for certain pregnancy-related benefits for those enrolled in the state’s Essential Plan or Qualified Health Plans.
“We're prioritizing maternal and infant health because every family deserves a healthy start in life,” Governor Hochul said. “Every mother deserves to feel joy and excitement, not fear and trepidation as she brings life into the world. When all families have the care and support they need to thrive, our potential as a state is limitless.”
Maternal Health Care
Through mandating a separate sick leave bank for prenatal care, New York will go 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. Employees are now able to receive an additional 20 hours of paid sick leave for prenatal care in addition to the existing sick leave.
Ensuring prenatal leave builds on Governor Hochul’s previous actions to support new parents and improve maternal health outcomes. The FY 2025 Enacted Budget includes offering 12 weeks of paid parental leave benefits to more than 80 percent of the state workforce and extending postpartum coverage for up to a full year for Medicaid and Child Health Plus enrollees.
The Budget also includes financial incentives for hospitals to reduce the number of unnecessary C-sections as part of Governor Hochul’s Maternal and Infant Health Care agenda. Governor Hochul is also taking action to establish new oversight measures to identify physicians whose behavior is out of line with clinical best practices.
Expanding Access to Doulas
The Enacted Budget invests $250,000 to establish a grant program to expand access to community-based doulas. The grant program will help recruit, train, support and mentor community-based doulas – especially those in historically vulnerable communities. This funding builds on the State's efforts to allow Medicaid coverage for doula services and facilitate easier access to doulas via a New York State Community Doula Directory. The Budget also authorizes the Commissioner of Health to issue a statewide standing order for doula services, expanding access for all birthing parents.
Maternal Mental Health
Governor Hochul secured $1.6 million for maternal mental health initiatives in the FY 2025 Enacted Budget to ensure that service providers engaging pregnant and postpartum New Yorkers are equipped to provide the best care. Specialized training is being developed for counselors staffing the 988 Suicide & Crisis Lifeline, so they can better provide compassionate care, support, and necessary resources to mothers and birthing parents who experience mental health distress.
Governor Hochul issued a proclamation recognizing Maternal Mental Health Awareness Week, which extends through Sunday, May 5. The proclamation acknowledges that mental health conditions rank among the leading causes of maternal mortality in New York, and that an estimated one in eight women experience postpartum depression, with women of color significantly more likely to have symptoms.
Project TEACH
The State Office of Mental Health is also expanding Project TEACH, so that a wider range of front-line practitioners – including therapists, lactation consultants, WIC staff, home visiting nurses, and others – can provide mental health support to pregnant and postpartum New Yorkers. Additionally, OMH was selected by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration to participate in a National Learning Collaborative on this subject matter.
Supporting Expecting Parents
Portable Cribs for Under Resourced New Yorkers
Since safe sleep environments are crucial for reducing the risk of sleep-related deaths, Governor Hochul will provide funding for the distribution of portable cribs for under resourced New Yorkers at no cost. The cribs will be available to families via local county departments of social services and other local organizations. Medical professionals at birthing hospitals will also facilitate referrals where a need for a crib is identified.
Protections for Employees Expressing Breast Milk
Governor Hochul is also committed to protecting employees who need to express breast milk for that employee's nursing child. The FY 2025 Enacted Budget ensures that employers provide paid break time for employees who are nursing for up to three years following child birth. This ensures that no employer can discriminate in any way against an employee who chooses to express breast milk in the workplace.
New York State Department of Labor Commissioner Roberta Reardon said, “This initiative sets a high standard for prenatal care, ensuring that people who give birth across New York receive the comprehensive support necessary to thrive during this critical time. Through Governor Hochul's visionary leadership in pioneering the state’s prenatal paid leave plan, we are taking monumental steps to empower and uplift our working mothers with accommodating workplace policies.”
State Health Commissioner Dr. James McDonald said, “Providing support and quality resources to people who give birth, and their babies is paramount. I thank Governor Hochulfor her tenacity and unwavering commitment to enhancing maternal and infant health in this state. The inception of Medicaid coverage for doulas, the production of a doula directory, the elimination of costs for certain pregnancy-related benefits for residents enrolled in state health care plans, and the creation of a paid leave program for prenatal care will improve health outcomes and help families flourish and thrive.”
New York State Office of Children and Family Services Acting Commissioner Dr. DaMia Harris-Madden said, “We applaud the Governor and the state Legislature for these critical steps to support maternal and infant health, particularly the continued funding to provide free portable cribs to under-resourced families. The benefits of this initiative are manifold- affording at the very least, economic and safety supports. Cribs are not just products, rather an integral component of OCFS’s outreach efforts to ensure a safe sleep environment for babies. By providing free cribs, we reduce the financial burdens, allowing resources to be allocated to other essential needs. We are proud to be part of this initiative to reduce the risk of sleep-related deaths and we want to highlight the ABCs of safe sleep: babies should sleep alone on their backs, in a safety-approved crib with a fitted sheet.”
State Senator Jessica Scarcella-Spanton said, "As a passionate advocate for maternal health, I'm thrilled about the numerous victories for new and expecting mothers in New York State's budget. From the groundbreaking creation of paid prenatal leave for pregnant moms to the elimination of out-of-pocket medical costs for pregnancy-related expenses, our state is leading the nation in prioritizing the health of expectant mothers and their infants. I'm particularly proud to have championed securing funding for creating a midwifery program at CUNY. Our state urgently needs more skilled maternal healthcare providers, and our CUNY students possess so much potential to expand this in New York. As a proud CUNY graduate, advocating for this program was very meaningful to me, and I look forward to seeing what this program will accomplish in the upcoming years.”
Brooklyn Borough President Antonio Reynoso said, “New Yorkers face tremendous challenges during pregnancy – from historical underinvestment in our maternal health infrastructure to unchecked medical biases and unaccommodating workplace policies. Here in New York City, the maternal mortality crisis is particularly urgent: Black women are around eight times more likely to die of pregnancy-related causes than their White counterparts. At Brooklyn Borough Hall, my administration is laser-focused on ending the maternal mortality crisis in Brooklyn, and I am deeply grateful for Governor Hochul’s bold leadership on this issue at the state level. If we are to turn the tide on the maternal mortality crisis, we must work hand in hand across all levels of government to find comprehensive solutions. With this prenatal leave policy building on the Governor’s previous work, Governor Hochul is helping us do just that.”