Parson recognizes Missouri’s need to improve health outcomes

Health care, mental health care and child care shortages were among a myriad of health and social services issues targeted by Governor Mike Parson during the annual stateside address Wednesday afternoon.

Parents in Missouri have struggled for years to find affordable quality daycare for their young children. The COVID-19 pandemic has taken a toll on already understaffed and underpaid day care centers, many of which have closed their doors due to rising costs and difficulties in finding suitable staff.

This has led, Parson said, to many Missouri parents forced to choose between working and staying home and caring for their families.

“Before COVID-19,” he said, “more than 50% of Missouri residents lived in an area with a child care shortage. We know the problem has worsened with a third of facilities no longer open since the pandemic. .

“We have to do better for our parents, children, suppliers and businesses.”

The governor has proposed three new child care tax credit programs. The programs aim to improve childcare facilities, support employers who support their workers with childcare, and enable childcare workers to receive pay raises.

Parson also proposed $56 million in his budget to begin expanding pre-kindergarten programs for all Missouri children in low-income families.

An additional $78 million would be invested in child care subsidies for providers.

“Last year, we made historic investments in health and mental health, including the new State One Health Lab, which states across the nation are using as a model for their own plans,” Parson said. “Now … frankly, one area where we are heartbroken at failure is maternal mortality. Currently, Missouri ranks 44th in the United States for our abnormally high maternal mortality rate.”

He described Missouri’s rank as “embarrassing and unacceptable”.

Missouri has been talking about it for years, said Crystal Quade, D-Springfield, House Minority Leader, during a stand-up response immediately following the speech.

“We’ve had a lot of initiatives,” Quade said. “We’ve had one task force after another look at this issue.”

Then Quade said she was glad Parson was dealing with it.

Parson has proposed that the state include $4.3 million in the budget for a new maternal mortality prevention plan to help address preventable deaths of expecting and postpartum mothers.

The Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services estimates that 75 percent of maternal deaths are preventable with at least one significant change in treatment, Parson said.

The governor also proposed spending about $3.5 million to increase the number of behavioral relationships with young people. Links are distributed among community behavioral health organizations to provide or coordinate training and consultation on youth-specific behavioral health issues for school, juvenile justice, and prosecutorial staff. Missouri currently has 31, and the proposed budget would add 27.

Parson also wants to transform rural community health by investing $15 million in the creation of “hubs” at six rural hospitals. The hubs would address the social determinants of health, thereby reducing hospitalizations and emergency room visits.

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Photo by Julie Smith/News Tribune: Governor Mike Parson looks into the teleprompter as he delivers the annual state of the state address Wednesday, Jan. 18, 2023, in the House of Representatives House.

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