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CITY OF RACINE — Gov. Tony Evers paid a visit to attend a roundtable in the City of Racine to gather with Mayor Cory Mason, multiple city and county officials, community members, and various representatives from the faith community to discuss the health of mothers and infants on March 20 at the Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Community Center, 1134 Dr. Martin Luther King Drive.

During the 13th anniversary of the Affordable Care Act, Gov. Evers took time to meet with the local community to highlight his 2023-25 biennial budget proposals. Included in the proposals, which aim to increase accessibility and affordability, is a focus on the health of mothers and infants.

Through a roundtable discussion, others in attendance voiced their concerns, achievements and hopes for the community in regard to maternal and infant health.

According to the National Institute of Health, Wisconsin has the highest Black infant mortality rate in the nation.

Gov. Evers, Mayor Mason, community leaders attend Racine round table discussing maternal, infant mortality
Mayor Cory Mason and Governor Tony Evers sit between Vicky Selkowe and Nicole Urquhart as Mason introduces those in attendance at the discussion on Monday. – Credit: Emma Widmar

“I really am interested in how the needs of Racine area on this intersect with the budget that we propose but also how we can move forward to make it all work together.”

Gov. Evers

The proposal focuses on dedicating $50 million to support Evers’ “Healthy Moms, Healthy Babies” initiative, including expanding Medicaid postpartum coverage from 60 days to 12 months, investing more than $5.6 million for maternal and infant mortality prevention, and expanding Medicaid benefits to cover doula services, including childbirth education and emotional and physical support provided during pregnancy, labor, birth, and the postpartum period across the state.

Roundtable discussion

In attendance and in support of improving healthcare for those in Racine and Wisconsin, were the following individuals:

  • Janine Anderson
    • Former Racine Journal Times reporter and City of Racine resident
  • Vicky Selkowe
    • Manager of Strategic Initiatives & Community Partnerships at the City of Racine
  • Hope Otto
    • Human Services Director at Racine County
  • Greta Neubauer
    • State Representative for the 66th Assembly District
  • Bishop Lawrence Kirby
    • Pastor at Saint Paul Missionary Baptist Church
  • Krysta Venegas
    • Outreach Specialist at the City of Racine Mayor’s office

The roundtable discussion was an opportunity for figures in the community to explain and express real concerns to Gov. Evers.

The opportunity to speak with the governor also allowed health officials, government officials, community members, and faith leaders to speak freely about the growth occurring in Racine to help raise awareness and help mothers and infants in the community.

Gov. Evers, Mayor Mason, community leaders attend Racine round table discussing maternal, infant mortality
Nicole Urquhart, Cody Pearce, Hope Otto, and Jeffery Langlieb at the roundtable discussion on the health of mothers and infants in Racine. – Credit: Emma Widmar

Obstacles facing Racine

Various members at the roundtable discussed the obstacles of transportation challenges, complexities of state program rules, expenses of scaling programs, trauma-affected mothers, mental healthcare, lack of home health services/visits, postpartum care, and more.

“There is like an institutional community level of work that needs to be done. To ensure that the people who are receiving the supports are also able to actually put those things in practice. It can be incredibly difficult. Even if you have the transportation you need (to get to) the places you need to get to. You know what to do. But if you are faced with an incredible level of stress in your everyday life, it is incredibly difficult to have those positive outcomes that we want people to have,” said Anderson.

Gov. Evers, Mayor Mason, community leaders attend Racine round table discussing maternal, infant mortality
Representative Greta Neubauer, Janine Anderson, and Bishop Kirby listen to Governor Evers address the roundtable. – Credit: Emma Widmar

Following this statement came a mutual agreement from attendees.

It’s not just about access to care while mothers are pregnant, it’s about more than care at birth, the support needed goes beyond what is currently being provided.

“What we’re seeing is that we need to do more outreach with our families, they’re getting their services from the hospital, but we are the ones that are in the trenches,” said Urquhart.

Echoing her sentiment was Bishop Kirby who has been instrumental in advocating for this cause.

“They may not go see a therapist, but there may be somebody in the community that can provide the kind of support and counseling that they may need. It is really serious to minister, to reach out, and to counsel mothers whose lost infants. There’s need to be some kind of follow-up,” added Bishop Kirby.

With the new budget proposal, Evers is aiming to close the gap and provide for mothers and infants on a statewide level.

“From supporting moms and babies, to ensuring our kids have mental health supports at school, to expanding BadgerCare, and providing affordable coverage to tens of thousands of Wisconsinites, our budget works to expand access to quality, affordable healthcare across our state,” said Gov. Evers. “Not only will expanding BadgerCare help save lives, improve health outcomes, and bring more than a billion dollars of savings to our state but it will also enable us to reinvest those savings into our healthcare systems, our communities, and our people. That’s a win-win-win for Wisconsin, and it’s long past time we join red and blue states across the country and get this done.”

Budget addresses

In Wisconsin, two-thirds of maternal deaths occur post-partum, and the rate of pregnancy mortality for Non-Hispanic Black mothers is five times that of the rate for their white peers. Gov. Evers knows that maternal and infant health must be prioritized, and that is why he is investing: 

  • More than $34 million over the biennium to expand Medicaid postpartum coverage from 60 days to 12 months; 
  • More than $5 million over the biennium in funding for the Department of Health Services’ work on the Newborn Screening Program;  
  • $4.4 million over the biennium for the Wisconsin State Laboratory of Hygiene newborn screening operations, which screens infants born in Wisconsin for 48 disorders, hearing loss, and critical congenital heart disease; and  
Gov. Evers, Mayor Mason, community leaders attend Racine round table discussing maternal, infant mortality
Gov. Evers shakes hands with Bishop Lawrence Kirby. – Credit: Emma Widmar
  • More than $5.6 million and two positions to support grants for maternal and infant mortality prevention, technical assistance, expansion of fetal and infant mortality review teams, and a grief and bereavement resource for families who have lost a fetus or infant. 

This budget also supports families by exempting from the sales tax basic family needs, including diapers, incontinence products, menstrual products, tampons, and breast pumps.

More information regarding the governor’s budget investments is available online. Read the Racine County Fetal and Infant Mortality Review for an in-depth overview of the problem impacting the community.

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