RALEIGH — The North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services is pleased to be selected among several entities for the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ Health Resources and Services Administration investment in increasing access to maternal care, addressing maternal mental health and growing the maternal health workforce in North Carolina. The department is committed to addressing the maternal mortality crisis and ongoing disparities among infant and maternal mortality rates, particularly in underserved areas. Black babies in North Carolina are 2.5 times more likely to die than white babies, and Black women experience almost twice the rate of maternal mortality than white women.

“Every mother deserves to have a healthy pregnancy and every baby deserves to have a healthy start in life,” said NCDHHS Secretary Kody H. Kinsley. “This investment from HRSA will provide more resources to address the disparities in maternal health including a focus on maternal behavioral health, so we can ensure mothers and families get the care they need, when they need it before, during and after pregnancy.”

More than $1.1 million each year for five years will go towards the Healthy Start Initiative in the department’s work towards eliminating racial and ethnic disparities. The funding will focus on Cumberland and Hoke counties due to their high Black infant mortality rate. Eighty percent of health outcomes are influenced by factors outside of the health care system. Healthy Start has a specific emphasis on addressing those factors, like housing and nutrition, in order to improve disparities and infant health outcomes. The program will provide direct community support for people who need it and will serve people before, during and after birth, along with fathers, infants and children up to 18 months old.

Funds will also be used for the screening and treatment of maternal depression and related behavioral health disorders in the NC Maternal Mental Health MATTERS Program. The 5-year funding for $750,000 will elevate the work by staffing NC-PAL’s perinatal health component of the line and offer clinical assessments through NCDHHS partnerships with Duke, UNC and other providers. The program includes provider education to support and train OB/GYNs, midwives and other maternal health providers in treating mental health and substance use disorders.

Following the grant announcements, NCDHHS Secretary Kody H. Kinsley, NCDHHS Section Chief for Women, Infant and Community Wellness Belinda Pettiford and other NCDHHS leadership participated in a roundtable discussion with HRSA Administrator Carole Johnson and Dr. Michael Warren with HRSA on Thursday at the Wake County Human Services.

More information on the funds NCDHHS and other North Carolina partners are receiving is available in the press release from HRSA. [source]