Deaths from pregnancy complications have become more prevalent in Mississippi, and racial disparities in the health of those who give birth have widened in recent years, according to a report released Thursday by the state’s Department of Health. The Mississippi Maternal Mortality Report shows that the maternal mortality rate increased by 8.8% between 2013‐2016 and 2017‐2019, with the latter period being the most recent one analyzed by researchers. Black, non-Hispanic women had a rate four times higher than white, non-Hispanic women. Meanwhile, the rate increased by 25% for Black women while falling 14% among white women. Of the maternal deaths directly related to pregnancy, 87.5% were determined to be preventable.
Patients have started buying medical marijuana in Mississippi, nearly a year after the products were legalized in the state. The Mississippi Medical Marijuana Association said in a news release Thursday that the first purchases happened Wednesday at The Cannabis Company in Brookhaven and at two dispensaries in Oxford — Hybrid Relief and Star Buds. “We have been working since 2018 to get medical marijuana in the hands of patients in Mississippi, and it’s surreal to see it finally come to fruition,” Ken Newburger, executive director of the association, said in the release. “This is only the beginning. More and more businesses will be harvesting, testing, and getting their products on the shelves in the coming months.”
A new report released Thursday by the Mississippi State Department of Health shows that the state’s maternal mortality rate — already one of the highest in America — is worsening. The report, conducted by 28 health care professionals and advocates who make up the Mississippi Mortality Review Committee, weighed the state’s maternal mortality data from 2017-2019. The most recent state report was released three years ago and weighed data from 2013-2016. Three years ago, Mississippi’s pregnancy-related mortality ratio was 33.2 deaths per 100,000 live births — the sixth-worst rate in America. But this week’s new report showed the state’s pregnancy-related mortality ratio had increased to 36.0 deaths per 100,000 live births.
Advocates say pending legislation on midwifery could help alleviate Mississippi’s lack of maternity health care and protect mothers and babies from those practicing without proper training. But Senate Bill 2793 and House Bill 1081 are likely going to die without a vote in committee this session, as legislative leaders say they need more time to study the issue. More than half of Mississippi’s 82 counties are considered “maternity care deserts,” with no hospitals providing obstetric care and no OB-GYNs. Advocates say trained midwives could help this shortage of care for low-risk pregnancies, but say the state should license and regulate them. With the overturning of Roe v. Wade and a ban on abortions in Mississippi, advocates say trained midwives could help with the expected increase of thousands of deliveries a year for a health care system that is already woefully inadequate.
Mississippi Public Broadcasting
Mississippi’s senate has recently advanced a bill out of committee that could extend postpartum Medicaid benefits from a maximum of six weeks to twelve months. A similar measure gained traction last year, but it was never taken up in the House and died on the calendar. Brittany Lampkin of Bentonia works in corrections and says she relied on postpartum Medicaid benefits in the weeks after giving birth. But she says those benefits were gone when she needed them most. “Six weeks after I had my last baby, experiencing the trauma of losing her, it was really tough having to just go back, get up, put that smile back on. Especially in the environment that I work in,” says Lampkin. Mississippi is one of 14 states not to expand postpartum care. Doctors claim the extension could keep families healthy and inject capital into a financially unstable healthcare system. Among the coalition of activists calling on the legislature to extend postpartum Medicaid is Cassandra Welchlin, Executive Director of the Mississippi Black Women’s Round Table. She says postpartum care isn’t just an issue that would affect mothers.
DeSoto County News
We hear the statistics so often that they do not really seem to matter anymore. Mississippi is number one in the nation in infant mortality rate, premature birth rate, fetal demise rate, low birthweight rate and on and on. Our maternal mortality rate is double the national average. Fewer children in Mississippi make it to their first birthday than in any other state. The numbers are daunting but consequently small changes can make a huge impact. A program like 12-month postpartum care for eligible mothers could have a big impact on our national rankings and the welfare of our mothers and babies. We have a real opportunity to help families in Mississippi. Approximately 65 percent of babies born in Mississippi are born to moms on Medicaid. As a pediatrician practicing in South Mississippi, I can tell you that many of these moms are working moms. They are teachers, preachers, college students, waitresses, and more. Extending Medicaid to 12 months postpartum will not deter them from working. Postpartum care is not paid maternity leave or a cash payment of any sort. The program simply provides them with much needed health insurance that allows women to access much needed health care services during this critical time.
It’s 1 a.m. and Heidelberg native Courtney Darby, a mother of four, is sound asleep in her room with part of her leg wrapped in a cast due to a broken ankle. She is suddenly awakened by the sound of her 8-month-old son, R’Jay Jones, crying. Her daughter, Deysha Ransom, 13, who is sleeping in the room next door, wakes up and springs into action. She brings R’Jay to Darby, who breastfeeds him until he falls asleep. Deysha returns R’Jay to his room, and everyone goes back to sleep.
Speaker Philip Gunn is stubbornly refusing to allow the Mississippi House of Representatives to vote on a bill that would extend postpartum Medicaid care from 60 days post-birth to one year. For the life of us, we cannot understand why. The Republican from Clinton, who is not seeking re-election, claims that the bill would be Medicaid expansion and that it is too costly. He is wrong on both counts, and he is smart enough to know it. The bill would not expand Medicaid under the Affordable Care Act, simply extend a vital piece of existing Medicaid coverage for the same group of people from roughly three months to 12 months.
Legislative leaders killed the bills as a worsening hospital crisis grips the state and Mississippi continues to be among the unhealthiest states with the highest percentages of uninsured residents. State Health Officer Dr. Daniel Edney told lawmakers in late 2022 that 38 hospitals across the state are in danger of closing, and all are facing financial hardships. Physicians and hospital leaders have said expanding Medicaid, which would result in more than $1 billion annually in additional federal health care dollars coming to the state, would help hospitals pay their bills. Beyond just helping hospitals, expanding Medicaid would provide health care coverage to many more Mississippians — up to 300,000, according to some studies. But many in the Republican leadership of the state, primarily Gunn and Gov. Tate Reeves, have been adamant in their opposition to expanding Medicaid as 39 other states have done, including many led by Republican politicians.
Though they haven’t been given the chance to vote on it, a majority of House members want to extend health care coverage for moms on Medicaid from two months to one year, a Mississippi Today survey shows. Mississippi Today is polling all 174 lawmakers on the issue, which health care leaders say would save countless lives across the state that consistently ranks near last for maternal mortality and last for infant mortality. More than a voting majority in both the House and Senate — including numerous Republicans — told Mississippi Today they support extending postpartum Medicaid coverage from two months to 12 months. Additionally, several lawmakers who said they were still officially undecided on the issue and would not give a direct “yes” or “no” answer appeared willing to consider it.