Shackleford focusing on healthcare access, economic development, education safety this legislative session

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INDIANAPOLIS – State Representative Robin Shackleford (D-Indianapolis) hopes to pass legislation regarding healthcare access, economic development, and education safety this legislative session.

Shackleford’s top two bills addressing issues within healthcare access revolve around prescription drug costs and infant mortality.

House Bill 1029 assigns the task of studying issues related to prescription drug price transparency by drug manufacturers in Indiana to the Interim Study Committee on Public Health, Behavioral Health and Human Services.

The issue of unaffordable prescription drugs was brought to Shackleford’s attention by constituents with diabetes who were unable to afford the insulin needed to survive. Constituents also wanted to know why Indiana’s needle exchange program provided clean needles freely to drug abusers, but not to people who use syringes for the administration of drugs they need to survive.

A study conducted by the Yale School of Medicine surveyed 199 diabetes patients about their ability to afford necessary medication. Of the 199 diabetic patients, 25 percent reported taking less insulin than prescribed because they could not afford the medication. Patients who reported underuse of insulin for cost-related reasons were found to be more likely to have poor glycemic control.

“People need medications to survive,” Shackleford said. “We have to stop prioritizing profits over Hoosier lives, and get to the root cause of high prescription costs.”

While this is the second time Shackleford has filed this measure, this year’s proposal has drawn community support. On January 2, a petition signed by over 500 constituents was delivered to the House Public Health Committee chair requesting that the bill be heard by the committee.

Shackleford’s second health care access bill (House Bill 1142) establishes the Infant Mortality Reduction Collaborative, which will examine infant mortality rates in Indiana, particularly the disparities between African-American and Caucasian women.

From 2010-2017, the infant mortality rate for African-American women ran approximately 25 percent higher than Caucasian women. For example, in 2017, the infant mortality rate for Caucasian woman was 5.9 percent, while African-American women experienced a rate of 15.3 percent.

“Indiana is the sixth worst state in the country for infant mortality rates,” Shackleford said. “However, the continuing disparity issue for African-American women is one that needs to be addressed with a unique solution.”

House Bill 1301 establishes a 17-member task force to study the current practices used for children, youth and families who have had traumatic experiences and recommend more effective practices.

“According to a recent state education assessment, only 50 percent of schools in the state currently use trauma informed practices in the classroom,” Shackleford said. “Children have to be treated for their trauma in order to learn and participate properly in the classroom.”

House Bill 1301 also addresses teacher safety by assigning a task force to study class sizes, the number of instructional assistants, small group teaching methods, the role of school counselors, and safety procedures for teachers and staff during student fights.

“When I was conducting my school visits before session began, teachers in almost every school I visited mentioned the need for legislation regarding smaller classroom sizes and trauma practices,” Shackleford said. “This is what teacher safety looks like to Hoosier teachers.”

For many of the schools Shackleford visited, classrooms generally had 30 students with one teacher. When teachers would leave for family and medical leave, some classrooms would be combined with a total of 40 or more students and one teacher.

“It is no secret that we are losing Indiana teachers to administrative positions or other state education systems,” Shackleford said. “We need more teachers, teacher assistants and school counselors to manage the large amount of students currently overwhelming our school corporations.”

With the combination of children experiencing trauma and the large class sizes, teachers are unable to stick with the planned curriculum, resulting in lower school grades.

Through House Bill 1141, Shackleford would establish a temporary traffic amnesty program for citizens who owe unpaid parking tickets. In order for someone to participate in the amnesty program a person must pay the driving privileges reinstatement fee, provide proof of financial responsibility and be eligible for the reinstatement of driving privileges.

“There are currently 500,000 Hoosiers with a suspended driver’s license because of unpaid traffic fines and reinstatement fees,” Shackleford said. “When Hoosiers can’t drive, they can’t get to work and make enough money to pay off those fees.”

Shackleford has also filed House Bill 1302, which would provide a Paid Family and Medical Leave program for working families across Indiana.

“The inability to take family and medical leave circles back to so many of the health issues that I have discussed, such as infant mortality,” Shackleford said. “Pregnant women often do not take time off from work during pregnancy because they cannot afford to do so. They’re at work lifting things they shouldn’t lift and standing on their feet all day. Because of this, many women miss prenatal and postnatal visits resulting in more complicated births and possible infant mortality.”

Shackleford is also introducing legislation to provide healthy food to underserved communities, promote small businesses, offer relief to people who purchase classroom supplies, reform laws covering low-level misdemeanor crimes, and offer changes to laws covering the suspension of a driver’s license following a motor vehicle accident.

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