The month of May has been a blur of activity at Nurture KC, simultaneously proving the capabilities and limits of our organization. At last count, we have:
Distributed 280 bags of produce to Healthy Start families
Provided grocery store gift cards, worth $125 each, to all 237 Healthy Start families through an emergency relief grant – totaling approximately $30,000
Served as a COVID-19 testing site in partnership with Truman Medical Centers and Shepherd Center
Conducted a fundraising campaign (running through May) with all proceeds dedicated to supplying food to our Healthy Start participants
These are just the activities related to our COVID-19 response and do not capture the daily work of diaper deliveries, car seat distribution, safe sleep education and one-on-one support to families that continues throughout this extraordinary time. While our team has risen to this challenge, I am struck by the limits of our impact when state policies aren’t aligned in this effort.
The Missouri and Kansas legislatures have adjourned their regular sessions for the year. Kansas has again come up empty-handed in a bid to expand Medicaid eligibility to 130,000 Kansans, defeating a Senate amendment to do just that in the final 24 hours of the session. In Missouri, health advocates beat back a last-minute attempt to impose work requirements on Medicaid recipients at a time when national unemployment approaches depression-era levels. With 36 states having gone before us in adopting this important health policy, we have the benefit of hindsight. Infant mortality in expansion states is half that of non-expansion states. Furthermore, women without health insurance are 3 to 4 times more likely to die of pregnancy complications than those who are insured. While we will continue to serve families in the 14 ZIP codes of Kansas City, MO and Kansas City, KS with the highest infant mortality rates, there is so much more that could be done at a state level to improve the health of our moms and babies across Missouri and Kansas.
Despite the status quo, I am hopeful that the tide may be turning. In the final days of the Missouri legislative session, an amendment was adopted that would extend Medicaid coverage for women with postpartum depression up to 12 months so that they can receive necessary mental health care. (Current law ends eligibility at 60 days postpartum.) This provision is contingent upon federal approval. Missourians will also have the opportunity to decide for themselves the benefit of Medicaid expansion as it will appear on the ballot this year. Public health measures require and deserve an investment that prioritizes the good of the whole. Investing in moms and babies reflects the value that we place on our most vulnerable and a belief that we have an obligation to ensure healthy future generations. The time for Medicaid expansion is now. This is the policy that could impact family health and change the culture in a way that individual organizations cannot on their own.
Thank you for your support as we continue this important work!
Executive Director, Nurture KC