Senator Jones

In 2011, 1,088 babies died in Ohio before celebrating their first birthday. Ohio ranks 48th in the country and 49th in infant mortality among African Americans. These rankings are not only disturbing, they are unacceptable.

From August through October of 2013, I took the Senate Medicaid, Health and Human Services Committee on a statewide tour to gain a better understanding of the problem and the needs associated with infant mortality. We saw some incredible local efforts that are working to combat the issue, including the good work of Cradle Cincinnati. What emerged from the hearings was a robust discussion on the contributing factors to Ohio’s abysmal infant mortality rate. Senator Tavares and I have partnered together to address this critical problem in our state.

Recently, Senate Bill 198, which designates the month of October in Ohio as “Sudden Infant Death Syndrome Awareness Month,” was signed into law by Governor Kasich. This bill was an important first step in our battle against infant mortality. Senator Tavares and I continued our fight by introducing a package of five bills that represent an effort to tackle this issue from all angles. Below is a summary of the bills currently moving through the Ohio legislature.

Senate Bill 276: Improving Safe Sleep Education

This bill will provide an update to “Claire’s Law,” which currently requires Shaken Baby Syndrome education be given to all parents, by also requiring safe sleep education materials to be distributed to new parents.

Senate Bill 277: The Infant Mortality Commission

This bill establishes a commission to inventory state services, resources, and their available funding streams to address Ohio’s high rate of infant deaths. The commission will also determine potential connections between statewide programs and local or community-based programs.

Senate Bill 278: Understanding SIDS

This bill will require use of the Sudden Unexplained Infant Death Investigation (SUIDI) Reporting Form whenever a child one year of age or younger dies suddenly and was thought to be in good health. This will help the state better understand the causes behind SIDS and devise new strategies for preventing those deaths.

Senate Bill 279: Health Center Pilot Project

This bill will establish a two-year pilot program using the model of Centering Pregnancy to improve birth outcomes at four Federally Qualified Health Centers. It also sets aside $500,000 in both fiscal years 2015 and 2016 to fund the pilot program.

Senate Bill 280: Postpartum Care & Reimbursement for Non-Medical Services

This bill will require case management services for postpartum care be included in the Medicaid managed care system. It would also set aside $25 million from Medicaid savings that will be granted by the Ohio Department of Health for community-based services that are not covered by Medicaid and are intended to reduce infant mortality.

Senate Bill 278 recently passed the Ohio Senate and will have its second hearing in the House Health and Aging Committee this week. All other bills are currently being heard in the Ohio Senate.

It is my hope that these bills will help us reduce infant mortality and ensure that we can celebrate more first birthdays throughout the state. As always, please feel free to contact me by emailing Jones@OhioSenate.gov, or by calling (614) 466-9737 with questions or comments.

Senator Shannon Jones represents the 7th Senate District, encompassing all of Warren County and portions of Butler and Hamilton Counties. Throughout her time in the legislature, Senator Jones has earned key leadership posts and a seat at the table on issues of health and safety for Ohio’s families and children.