Meanwhile, state lawmakers also move ahead on legislation to benefit doulas, by establishing Medicaid coverage and reimbursements.
PROVIDENCE — Officials for both the state and city showed their support for doulas on Tuesday.
At City Hall, Mayor Jorge Elorza announced a total of $20,000 in city-funded grants for doulas, who are non-medical professionals who provide support and guidance throughout pregnancy and childbirth.
At the State House, the Senate Committee on Health and Human Services unanimously passed legislation that would make doula services eligible for reimbursement through private insurance and Medicaid. Meanwhile, the House Committee on Finance heard testimony on a budget article that would create Medicaid coverage and reimbursement rates for doula services.
Doulas are seen as advocates who can help mitigate the disparity in maternal health outcomes for black women, who are three to four times more likely to die from pregnancy-related complications than their white peers nationally, said Elorza during a news conference at City Hall to announce the grants.
“It’s a health-equity issue that touches all of us,” he said.
Grants of up to $4,000 each were given to four local doulas — Qua Tia Osorio, Ada Johnson, Latisha Michel and Emerald Ortiz — to expand on their work helping other doulas, particularly doulas of color, succeed in the profession.
Ortiz, said she would use her grant to host group childbirth education classes, as well as help subsidize her services for four to six families who cannot afford her full rate.
Osorio, who received two grants from the city, said she would use the money to help with a mentorship program to train doulas in how to start their own businesses, as well as to host education sessions for families on what to expect when using a doula.
The city will also pay stipends for 12 doulas to help guide the Rhode Island Licensing Board in developing a statewide certification process. The certification would make doula services eligible for reimbursement through private and state-funded health insurance programs.
The House Committee on Finance on Tuesday night heard testimony from dozens of advocates in support of the budget article that would establish Medicaid coverage and reimbursements for doula services.
The state budget includes $200,000 for the services, according to a presentation by House financial advisor Sharon Reynolds Ferland. The total cost of the program would actually be $400,000, but would be offset by an estimated $200,000 in general hospital savings through a reduction in cesarean-section births and other costly interventions, Ferland said. The total cost to state taxpayers would be about $100,000, because the federal government would reimburse half of the expense through the Medicaid program.
The state estimates that about 10% of pregnant women on Medicaid would access the services at $850 per patient, Ferland said.
Having the ability to be reimbursed by health insurance would make all the difference for doulas, who often work for free in order to help clients who cannot afford their services.
“I’ve had no food in my house, and I’ve had no gas in my car [after] supporting families,” said Shaylene Costa, a doula who also works as a medical assistant.
Costa said she took on clients for free for about two years because she believes strongly in the work.
“I had two children and I survived,” she said, “and I can teach other mothers to do that.”
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