Jones, Tavares Introduce Bipartisan Legislation to Combat Infant Mortality
COLUMBUS–State Senators Shannon Jones (R–Springboro) and Charleta B. Tavares (D–Columbus) today announced the introduction of a legislative package to fight the state’s high rate of infant deaths.
Ohio currently ranks 48th in the nation in its overall infant mortality rate and 49th among African Americans.
“Right now, Ohio is coming in nearly last in the nation for infant mortality, which is an unacceptable standard,” said Jones. “We lose too many babies in Ohio before they reach their first birthday and many of these cases can be prevented with proper training and education. Today, we are launching a statewide effort designed to engage community leaders, healthcare professionals, and families on how we can all be a part of the solution to this heartbreaking problem.”
Jones, who Chairs the Senate Standing Committee on Medicaid, Health, and Human Services, was joined by Senator Tavares and other committee members on a statewide tour in 2013 to better understand the infant mortality problem and the needs associated with it and to learn more about local efforts to combat the issue. Senators Jones and Tavares also jointly sponsored Senate Bill 198, which designates each October as “Sudden Infant Death Syndrome Awareness Month.”
“This is the next step in moving our state up in protecting the health and safety of our infants. We are focusing our attention on strategies that work and building a clearinghouse to identify and develop new promising practices to eliminate infant deaths,” stated Assistant Minority Leader Tavares.
The Senators will jointly introduce 5 separate pieces of legislation, each intended to combat a particular portion of the issue. Those bills include:
Senate Bill 276: Improving Safe Sleep Education
This bill will provide an update to “Claire’s Law,” which currently requires Shaken Baby Syndrome education be given to all parents, by also requiring safe sleep education materials to be distributed to new parents.
Senate Bill 277: The Infant Mortality Commission
Establishes a commission to inventory state services, resources, and their funding streams available to address Ohio’s high rate of infant deaths. The commission will also:
  • Determine potential connections between statewide programs and local or community-based programs.
  • Include four legislators (two House, two Senate), a Public Health Commissioner, a coroner or someone who conducts death scene investigations, two representatives from community-based programs, the Director (or his or her designee) of the Ohio Department of Medicaid, the Director (or his or her designee) of the Ohio Department of Health, the Director (or his or her designee) of the Office of Health Transformation, the Director (or his or her designee) of the Ohio Commission on Minority Health, and the Attorney General (or his or her designee).
Senate Bill 278: Understanding SIDS
The legislation will require use of the Sudden Unexplained Infant Death Incident (SUIDI) Reporting Form whenever a child one year of age or younger dies suddenly when thought to be in good health. This will help the state better understand the causes behind SIDS and devise new strategies for preventing those deaths.
Senate Bill 279: Health Center Pilot Project
This bill would establish a two-year pilot program using the model of Centering Pregnancy to improve birth outcomes at four Federally Qualified Health Centers. It also sets aside $500,000 in both fiscal years 2015 and 2016 to fund the pilot program.
Senate Bill 280: Postpartum Care & Reimbursement for Non-Medical Services
The legislation would require case management services for postpartum care be included in the Medicaid managed care system. It would also set aside $25 million from Medicaid savings that will be granted by the Ohio Department of Health for community-based services that are not covered by Medicaid and are intended to reduce infant mortality.
The Senators announced the legislative initiatives at a press conference held at Moms2B, a unique, Columbus-area program that is designed to mentor pregnant women in having healthy pregnancies, deliveries, and babies. Dr. Pat Gabbe, the program’s clinical director also addressed the press conference and highlighted how the pending legislation would strengthen local efforts to reduce infant mortality and shine additional light on the tragic issue.
“I’m delighted that Senators Jones and Tavares have taken up the critical issue of infant mortality in Ohio,” said Dr. Pat Gabbe, clinical professor of pediatrics at The Ohio State University College of Medicine. “At Moms2B, we help women every day who are so resilient despite the barriers they face -- barriers to healthy food, good transportation, social support and a healthy pregnancy. Our goal is to help women in poverty have healthy, full-term babies. They deserve that.”

For additional facts on infant mortality in Ohio and information on the legislation, click here.
The bills will receive their first reading on the Senate Floor Wednesday, February 12th and be later referred to a Senate Committee for further consideration.
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Release Date: Wednesday, February 12, 2014
For Senator Jones: Dana Dunlap at (614) 466-9737 or
For Senator Tavares:  Simone Crawley at (614) 466-5131 or
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