For immediate release:
Oct. 1, 2014
INDIANAPOLIS - Below is the text of a letter to Indiana Gov. Mike Pence from State Rep. Gail Riecken (D-Evansville) asking for immediate action to start programs designed to address Indiana’s high infant mortality rate:
Dear Governor Pence,
During the 2014 session of the Indiana General Assembly, I added an amendment to Senate Bill 408 that would have provided funding for programs to prevent infant mortality in our state. In the final hours of the session, this proposal was taken out of the bill, since it was not supported by either your administration or the majorities in the House and Senate.
Since the end of session, public awareness of the issue has grown, as has your apparent willingness to reduce a mortality rate that is among the five worst in the nation. I see no reason to wait any longer. I am asking you to immediately release funding to pay for a statewide public awareness campaign.
During the last meeting of the Commission on Improving the Status of Children in Indiana, we were shown a public education initiative aimed at educating Hoosiers about infant mortality. While the program appeared to offer us a good starting point, I was concerned that it wasn’t going to go statewide and offer a more comprehensive use of tools like billboards, radio and television, and social media. Most importantly, there were worries about the funding for such an effort.
Off the top of my head, I can think of at least two possible sources for funding to pay for this program without needing any tax increase. One would be interest on the Newborn Screening Fund, which has been wrongly reverted to the state general fund. Earlier this year, there was around $750,000 in the account. Another source of revenue that could be considered is the interest on the Indiana Check-up Plan Trust Fund, which is estimated to be over $600,000 in 2016.
I know that reducing Indiana’s horribly high infant mortality rate is a priority for your administration. I know that it is one of the first projects being studied by your management and performance hub. But I also feel there is no reason to wait any longer to move ahead on this proposal.
There are many potential projects out there waiting for assistance:
- Helping hospitals upgrade their systems to address the problems caused through neonatal abstinence syndrome.
- Programs that aim to prevent drug addiction and reduce dependency, particularly among young pregnant women.
- Fellowships for general practitioners to train in addiction counseling, which was advocated during a recent meeting of the Attorney General’s task force on prevention of prescription drug abuse.
The ideas are out there that can bring long-term remedies to our desperate situation. All that is needed is a helping hand.
Just a couple of weeks ago, you found it in your heart to make sure domestic violence funding was there for victims who are suffering and trying to start new lives for themselves and their children.
This issue has the same immediacy. Infants in our state are dying, and I believe it can be stopped. I have requested this issue be studied by the executive committee of the Commission on Improving the Status of Children in Indiana at the group’s next meeting. In addition, I will be soliciting support publicly.
Your voice in support would help us immensely. I look forward to hearing from you.
Indiana House District 77