Montgomery County gets $3.2M in funding to combat infant mortality

As part of a statewide effort to help more Ohio babies reach their first birthdays, the Ohio Department of Medicaid has awarded $3.2 million to community initiatives in Montgomery County aimed at reducing infant mortality.

More than 1,000 infants in Ohio died before their first birthday in 2016, according to data released by the Ohio Department of Health.

While infant mortality rates have been trending downward over time, Ohio’s rate — especially the black infant mortality rate — still exceeds the national average.

In Montgomery County in 2016, 45 babies died before their first birthday, and the county’s infant mortality rate overall was 6.8 per 1,000 live births. That was an improvement year-over-year from 2015.

RELATED: Montgomery County’s infant mortality rate among worst in Ohio

The leading causes of infant deaths are due to premature births, birth defects, and safe sleep practices, according to county health officials. There is a racial disparity in the number of deaths, with black babies dying at 2.5 times the rate of white babies.

The current state budget commits almost $50 million in general revenue funding and federal grants to improving birth outcomes and reducing racial and ethnic disparities, building on nearly $87 million in investments made during the past six years.

The Ohio Department of Medicaid is dedicating $26.8 million over the next two years to support local initiatives that have proven effective at combating infant mortality.

The state has focused efforts on nine counties — Butler, Cuyahoga, Franklin, Hamilton, Lucas, Mahoning, Montgomery, Stark, and Summit counties – to identify innovative projects that will connect women and infants to quality health care and care management.

“It’s promising to see the local community coalitions that have been formed in recent years to bring local coordination and leadership to addressing infant mortality,” said Barbara Sears, Director of the Ohio Department of Medicaid. “We realize this is a complex issue that will take all of us working together at the state and local levels to help more Ohio babies reach their first birthdays.”

RELATED: Infant deaths rise across Ohio in 2016

Montgomery County has the lowest infant mortality rate among the nine counties the state is working with, said Terra Williams, director for the county health department’s Office of Health Promotion.

Virtually all of the money in Montgomery County — $3.1 million — went to the county’s Infant Mortality Task Force’s EveryOne Reach One initiative, which has been in existence for a little over a year. C0-led by Montgomery County and Public Health Dayton Montgomery County, the task force has increased the number of home visiting nurses through Help Me Grow Brighter Futures, expanded health ministry and fatherhood programs and has plans for a city-wide health day.

The remaining state money, about $100,000, went to the Wesley Community Center. Serving families in several high-risk ZIP Codes on Dayton’s west side, the center’s Baby Ready program throws baby showers for expectant mothers to help them with needed supplies, provides employment assistance, and connects new mothers with home visits through Help Me Grow.

“I’m really grateful for (this funding), because it helps us reach more families,” said Pam Albers, director of Help Me Grow.

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