Protecting Indiana's most vulnerable

Posted by: Zach Weismiller  | Friday, March 13, 2015

One of my main priorities each legislative session is to address the public safety issues facing our community and state. Working towards this goal, I was proud to support Indiana’s budget bill, House Bill (HB) 1001, which invests in the safety and security of all Hoosiers.

Specifically, the budget that passed out of the House includes additional funding for domestic violence programs, allocating $5 million each year over the biennium. Along with domestic violence prevention, I supported legislation which aims to reduce our state’s alarming infant mortality rate. 

Currently, Indiana’s infant mortality rate (IMR), the number of infants who die before reaching their first birthday per 1,000 births, is at a startling 7.7 percent. That is nearly two percent higher than the national average and is the fifth highest in the county. It is critical that we reduce this number in order to protect the health and well-being of all Hoosiers, especially our most vulnerable.

House Bill (HB) 1004, authored by Rep. Holli Sullivan, establishes the Safety P.I.N. (Protecting Indiana’s Newborns) Grant Program to incentivize organizations to develop innovative plans that will reduce Indiana’s IMR. HB 1004’s goal is to discover best practices for reducing our IMR and to save the lives of Hoosier infants. 

As Vice Chair of the Family, Children and Human Affairs Committee, I was honored to listen to testimony in support of HB 1004. We heard much discussion on how to tackle this issue, including the need for flexible, community-based approaches. Through the Safety P.I.N. grant program, health providers will be able to develop targeted proposals on how to lower the IMR in their communities. Specifically, the program will give preference to proposals that work to incentivize at-risk pregnant women to get in touch with doctors at the beginning of their pregnancies, decrease smoking rates and other factors that significantly impact Indiana’s IMR. 

Research shows that lack of prenatal care can lead to low birth weight or preterm labor, both of which are highly correlated with infant mortality. In fact, nearly one-third of pregnant women in Indiana do not receive prenatal care, and more than 60 percent of infant deaths were due to mothers who received fewer than 10 prenatal visits. In addition, more than 20 percent of mothers reported smoking during their pregnancy in over half of Indiana’s 92 counties and for seven counties in particular, 30 percent of mothers smoked while pregnant. 

When applying for the grant, organizations are required to include their regional or demographic targeted area, the specific amount they will reduce the IMR and the reduction time frame. Applicants can also spend a portion of the grant to pay for ongoing expenses and will receive the remaining amount when they reach their goal.

As a mother and legislator, I am proud of this bill and hope we will continue to address this critical public safety concern in the future. Our state’s high IMR is a key indicator of the overall health of our Hoosier communities and is a distress signal to significantly improve the factors which influence IMR. I am proud HB 1004 passed both our committee and the full House will a unanimous vote and will now be considered by the Senate.  

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Rep. Ziemke (R-Batesville) represents portions of Rush, Fayette, Franklin, Ripley and Decatur counties.