Florida Infant-Mortality Programs Avoid Proposed Budget Cuts

Mar 8, 2018

After weeks of uncertainty, the directors of Florida programs meant to reduce infant mortality are breathing a sigh of relief.

Lawmakers Wednesday agreed to keep their funding the same as last year instead of slashing it by 30 percent, which is what Senate leaders wanted to do.

More than 30 coalitions around the state are made up of programs that educate mothers-to-be on how to have successful pregnancies and new parents on how to take care of newborns.

Healthy Start Coalitions lobbyist Jane Murphy said the Senate backed off plans to cut their budget by $19 million. The coalitions also dodged another Senate proposal, she said, that would have rolled some of their services into county health departments.

Senate leaders had argued Healthy Start is duplicating assistance available elsewhere, but the House disagreed.

The Legislature created the Healthy Start program in the 1990s to reduce infant mortality rates, especially among black and Latino babies. The program takes responsibility for moving Florida’s ranking from one of the worst states for infant deaths, to just around average today.

Reporter Ryan Benk can be reached at rbenk@wjct.org, at (904) 358 6319 or on Twitter @RyanMichaelBenk.