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Legislative News and Views - Rep. Dave Pinto (DFL)

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Legislators and advocates rally to support "great start" bills

Thursday, February 21, 2019

SAINT PAUL, Minn.—Today at the Capitol, a bipartisan, bicameral group of legislators, joined by advocates for health care, mental health, and early childhood, announced support for prenatal care and home visiting proposals, initiatives that would improve the wellbeing of parents and children at the beginning of life. The announcement immediately followed a legislative hearing on the home visiting proposal.

“Prenatal care and home visiting services are part of a broader legislative effort to help make sure that every child gets a great start in life,” said Rep. Dave Pinto (DFL—St. Paul), chair of the House Early Childhood Finance & Policy Division. “The House, Senate, and Governor are all prioritizing early care and learning. This is the session to do right by the youngest Minnesotans.”

While Minnesota leads the nation in many aspects of health care, too many African-American and American Indian women die from pregnancy-related causes. Black and Native women are three to four times more likely to die during pregnancy compared to their white counterparts, and their infants are more than twice as likely to die as white infants. Rep. Kelly Morrison (DFL—Deephaven) and Sen. Jim Abeler (R—Anoka) have introduced companion bills, HF 909 and SF 855, to expand access and utilization of prenatal care and decrease racial and ethnic disparities.

“The disparities that exist in Minnesota in terms of infant and maternal mortality are unacceptable,” said Rep. Morrison. “We can – and we must – do better.”

“In Minnesota, racial inequities in birth outcomes are staggering and abhorrent,” said Dr. Katy Kozhimannil, Associate Professor at the University of Minnesota School of Public Health. “Black and Native babies are twice as likely as white babies to die before their first birthday. In order to reduce this disparity, it’s crucial to focus on ensuring that all Minnesotans have access to high quality care during pregnancy and childbirth.”

Another set of bills, authored by Rep. Kristin Bahner (DFL—Maple Grove) and Sen. Jerry Relph (R—St. Cloud), would invest in home visiting services that strengthen Minnesota families. HF 1226 and SF 1438 provide voluntary stabilizing support for families experiencing high-risk factors where they are most comfortable: at home and in their community. Services include access to health care services; opportunities to develop secure attachments; support to improve maternal health, employment needs, and the child’s development; and connections to community resources.

“Family home visiting (FHV) is an evidence-based, voluntary service that has demonstrated a significant impact in addressing child well-being,” said Rep. Bahner.  

“As the director of Families Together at Lifetrack and a member of the Minnesota Targeted Home Visiting Coalition, I have seen the positive impact these programs have in the lives of families and communities who often get left behind,” said Chandra Bittman, Director of Families Together at Lifetrack. “Families work with us on a voluntary basis, and gain skills and knowledge that keep them from entering the child protection system, and help their young children get on track. With increased funding we can continue to expand programming to more families in need.”