By Tom Travis
Visiting the Hamilton Community Health Clinic on Flint’s north side today, Michigan Governor Gretchen Whitmer said, “When we have a healthier population we have a healthier economy.”
To that end, Whitmer was at the Hamilton Clinic to announce her initiative called Healthy Moms Healthy Babies. She first announced the initiative in her State of the State address last month.
The governor shared some troubling statistics.
“We know that black women have a three times greater possibility of death by giving birth–A routine thing that happens daily, yet it’s three times more dangerous for black women,” she said.
“That’s why when we focus on prenatal care and postnatal care by expanding the ability of Medicare coverage from a couple of months to a full year, that’s how we improve outcomes for women and babies.”
Commenting on why she came to Flint for the announcement, Whitmer said, “I wanted to be here at Hamilton Clinic. There are some wonderful health services being provided here. Part of the focus that I put in the State of the State that is also reflected in the budget is focusing on healthy moms and healthy babies in the State of Michigan.”
Whitmer met with Hamilton Community Health Network CEO Clarence Pierce and Flint Mayor Sheldon Neeley to make the announcement. An explanation of the initiative is available here on the State of Michigan’s website. The link includes the following elements, in part:
”Update State Policy to fit the needs of Moms today:
Expand health care coverage for low-income new moms to a full year after giving birth and move a woman’s first postpartum visit to within three weeks, with a comprehensive visit within twelve weeks. This will help new moms work through postpartum depression and anxiety, substance use disorder treatment, challenges with breastfeeding, and other health care needs.
Partner with providers and universities to address health disparities:
Create a partnership between practitioners and students to require tomorrow’s doctors and nurses to be trained in implicit bias because health care providers do not always listen to a woman of color’s medical concerns the same way they listen to a white woman. Dean Randolph Rasch from Michigan State University and Dr. Audrey Gregory, CEO of the Detroit Medical Center, will be leading the effort to ensure equity in outcomes for every mom and every baby.
Expand access to evidence-based home visiting programs:
Michigan has a long-standing tradition of home visiting for over 20 years. Home visiting is an evidence-based intervention proven to increase health outcomes for women and babies, school readiness, family self-sufficiency, and reduce future contact with the justice system. We will connect more families with services and better address social determinates of health like housing, food security, and safety.
Let a woman pick birth control that works for her
Access to family planning and contraception is better for women’s health and the health of their babies. As a part of comprehensive health care for women we will ask a woman what she wants, ensure she can get it in one visit, and provide coverage for it.”
Asked about her expectations of a partnership with the Hamilton Community Health Network, the governor said, “We’re going to see improved outcomes. One of the things that’s great about this particular facility there is access to behavioral health, pharmacy, medical and eye care.”
She continued, “And that’s something that’s unique and really a great opportunity for the people of Flint. We need to replicate that and grow that across the state those opportunities. But as we get more people on health care it will make for a healthier Flint, which makes Flint a more competitive place, and that’s ultimately what we want.”
Whitmer further added, “We want to level the playing field for people across Michigan. Whether it’s the education of our children or outcomes in health care and bringing down the cost of prescription drugs. All of these are pieces of the work that we’re doing.”
The governor toured the Hamilton Clinic and visited with Dr. Huda Elhwairis, an internist, and Dr. Miriam Parker, a dentist. Each gave the governor their perspectives on how they provide services to the Flint community.
Asked how the new initiative will be paid for, the governor answered, “The expansion of Medicaid is a wonderful way to be really smart–a way of drawing in federal dollars and to do the right thing but also to be able to make sure that Michigan is getting a greater percentage of dollars that we send to Washington.”
EVM asked Whitmer if she knew of any developments with potential indictments concerning the Flint water crisis and she responded, “You’d have to ask the attorney general and more specifically, the solicitor general. We are informed as things happen. I have not gotten any updates as of recent. But I think judging from what I know to be statutes of limitations I would assume that there is something happening soon. But I don’t have any specific information.”
The statute of limitations on alleged crimes emerging from the water crisis expires April 25, six years after the switch to Flint River water in 2014.
The governor left Flint to speak at the Macomb County Chamber of Commerce Luncheon where she was expected to share and discuss her 2020 priorities for Michigan.
EVM Assistant Editor Tom Travis can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.