A statewide Community Doula Directory has been established in New York state as part of a larger legislative effort to combat New York’s maternal mortality crisis.
The NYS Senate successfully passed legislation (S.1867) in March to address maternal mortality and morbidity to expand access to doula care to those most in need of additional support.
The legislation has been a focal point for Senator Samra Brouk, who says that doulas—trained professionals providing physical, emotional and informational support to birthing parents and partners—saves lives.
“In a time when the maternal mortality rate in New York is getting worse, we have an obligation to do everything in our power to save the lives of birthing people across our state,” Brouk said.
The bill will require the Department of Health to establish and maintain a NYS community doula directory for doulas on the department’s website, promote services to Medicaid recipients; and promote resources to Medicaid enrollees. Brouk is also leading advocacy efforts to ensure that doulas are eligible for Medicaid reimbursement in this year’s 2023 budget.
Brouk said work is not done simply with passing the bill.
"The Senate must also actually make a Medicaid reimbursement rate for Doula Care, so that the women and birthing people who need this care the most and who often don’t have two three four thousand dollars to spend on it are able to use Doula care and to also eventually save their own lives or their babies lives.”
Brouk says doula care has been proven to reduce the overall cesarean rate and length of labor, which in turn decrease the probability of severe hemorrhage and other morbidities.
“Doula care has been proven to reduce the likelihood of postpartum depression and other maternal mental health conditions, which is the third leading cause of maternal death in NYS,” Brouk says.
Brouk, who delivered her first child last year, has been vocal about how the presence of a doula transformed her birthing experience and equipped her family for success, and says she is “committed to making sure that all families can access the same level of care.”
She says the crisis of maternal mortality is more severe for Black women and birthing people, with a mortality rate that is three times higher than white women nationwide, and five times higher in New York alone.
“Black women are five times more likely in New York state to die in childbirth or thereafter. In New York City they’re nine times more likely. So, when you think about Doula care it truly is life-saving care."
“The reason why this directory is so important is that it will actually make sure this information is out there because you can’t have Doula care without making sure it’s accessible to those who need it.”
Brouk said the state of maternal health in New York is not just a women’s issue.
“It is a racial justice issue, a socioeconomic issue, and is a crisis that deserves our full attention,” she said.