Senate passes bill to expand doula services

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ALBANY, NY (WENY) — The state Senate recently passed a bill intending to expand access to doula services. It would require the Department of Health to establish and maintain the New York State community doula directory for doulas accepting Medicaid.

“Individuals on Medicaid can find a doula. They can interview them and see their credentials, etc. So, they can find someone that they trust to take them through what should be a very joyful time in their lives, but myself included, it can also be a very daunting time,” said Sen. Samra Brouk (D-55th Senate District), a sponsor of the bill.

A community doula is a trained professional who can offer emotional, educational, and physical support to an individual before, during, and after childbirth. Some doula’s working in New York said this support is important for birthing individuals but access can be challenging.

“Right now, some of the people who need doula support the most are not able to afford it and expanding Medicaid coverage to reimburse doulas would allow more people to be able to access doulas and also allow doulas to be able to work more sustainably,” said Christine Hernandez, Birth and Postpartum Doula.

Some doulas said the Medicaid reimbursement rates as they are now are too low.

“We’re joining people before their medical teams and we’re staying with them afterward so that time needs to be considered and doulas need to be paid a rate that makes this a living wage so that we can support our families and support ourselves,” said Kaitlin McGreyes, Doula and founder of Be Her Village.

In 2019, the Department of Health launched a doula pilot program to extend the state’s Medicaid program to cover doula services in Erie and Kings counties. Sen. Brouk said because this pilot is only available in two counties, access is limited.

Brouk added access to doulas can do more than just help New Yorkers through their birthing journey, it can also help combat maternal death.

According to the New York State Department of Health, Black women are five times more likely to die of pregnancy related causes compared to white women.

“So, when we think about doula care and expanding it. It’s also a racial justice issue and it’s a birth justice issue. It’s making sure that we have more equitable outcomes and we’re trying to get rid of these disparities while we tackle the crisis overall too,” Brouk said.

Moving forward, this bill will have to be passed in the same language in the Assembly before going to the governor’s desk for her signature and any funding or policy changes to the Medicaid program will have to go through the state budget–due on April 1.


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