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Parson prioritizes maternal mortality during address

COLUMBIA, Mo. (KMIZ)

After Gov. Mike Parson announced maternal mortality would be a priority for this year, one Missouri mother felt relieved, but still wonders if it's enough.

In his State of the State address on Wednesday, Parson said he's requesting $4.3 million go towards the Department of Health and Senior Services to develop a plan to tackle maternal mortality.

Missouri has the seventh-highest maternal mortality rate in the country, according to the Center for Disease and Control. In the most recent Pregnancy-Associated Mortality Report, the DHSS said an average of 61 women died while pregnant each year between 2017-19.

"We refuse to accept this tragic Missouri statistic," Parson said in the speech. "We must do better. If we can’t get it right for the mothers and children across our state, we might as well pack our bags and let somebody else occupy our seats. Let’s support our mothers, let’s support our children, let’s support the future of Missouri."

Columbia mother and Ward 2 Councilwoman Andrea Waner had mixed feelings about Parson's approach.

"My first reaction was 'It's about damn time,'" Waner said. "I was relieved to see that somebody in power was finally saying this is an issue that we're going to care about and at the same time, $4 million for a program for something that is impacting so many women in our state feels dismal."

Waner had a close scare during her pregnancy with her youngest child. She was hospitalized with sudden onset severe preeclampsia, a blood-pressure condition that is extremely dangerous for pregnant people.

After days with no improvement to her condition, Waner's doctor made the decision to have an emergency C-section at only 30 weeks pregnant.

"She said, 'In this hospital, we don't risk moms.' And she said, 'We're going to have your baby today and we're going to take care of her,'" Waner said.

Waner and her baby girl are healthy and happy today at home, thanks to the care of her medical team. She got to take her baby home 15 weeks after giving birth, but the time in the neonatal intensive care unit opened Warner's eyes to the potential dangers of pregnancy.

"But I didn't realize how close I was to leaving my kids behind because of something like that," Waner said.

Dave Dillon, spokesman with the Missouri Hospital Association, said there is no one linear approach to decreasing the maternal mortality rate.

"It's actually going to take a variety of approaches to be able to meet the needs of those moms in need," Dillon said. "Because of where they live, because of their economic or social situation, because maybe they've got a disease background, all of these things need to be taken into consideration."

MHA, DHSS and the state are working on a solution. A plan is not fully formulated, but they're collecting resources.

"These numbers, the fact that they're not particularly good is not new," Dillon said. "What we have the ability to do is connect the resources of the state community stakeholders and clinicians so that they can all work collaboratively on the project to move the dial on these numbers."

Multiple bills have been introduced for 2023 Missouri legislative session that would ease the burden some pregnant women face.

A hearing was held Wednesday in the Senate Health and Welfare Committee for bills introduced by Sen. Elaine Gannon (R-Crawford) and Sen. Tracy McCreery (D-St. Louis).

Senate Bills 45 and 90, if passed, would allowed MO HealthNet coverage for low-income women to include Medicaid benefits for the duration of the pregnancy and for one year following the end of the pregnancy.

Article Topic Follows: Missouri Politics
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Hannah Falcon

Hannah joined the ABC 17 News Team from Houston, Texas, in June 2021. She graduated from Texas A&M University. She was editor of her school newspaper and interned with KPRC in Houston. Hannah also spent a semester in Washington, D.C., and loves political reporting.

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