The Black Health Coalition of Wisconsin (BHCW) is fighting for funding to support minority families and children, but we need the community’s help.
BHCW is seeking continuing funding from the federal Health Resources and Services Administration’s (HRSA) Healthy Start Initiative to support our Milwaukee Healthy Beginnings Project. The project promotes prenatal services to pregnant women in seven ZIP code areas in central city Milwaukee.
The Black Health Coalition of Wisconsin, a grant recipient since 1998, has operated its Milwaukee Healthy Beginnings Project (MHBP) to improve maternal and infant health in the City of Milwaukee, providing services to almost 700 Wisconsinites a year.
Milwaukee has one of the highest infant mortality rates in the country, and the black infant mortality rate is three to four times higher than the white rate. Discontinuation of this funding is a significant obstacle in protecting the health of the most vulnerable Wisconsin families. MHBP provides comprehensive, culturally respectful case management to clients that include those who are homeless, involved in domestic violence, incarcerated, have open Bureau of Child Welfare cases, etc. MHBP has a proven track record of success, as evidenced by independent evaluations.
Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA) issued two Healthy Start Initiative (HSI) Funding Opportunities Announcements: Round 1 in December 2013 and Round 2 in February 2014. The Healthy Start Initiative funds agencies that have racial disparities in infant mortality rates and poor birth outcomes. Some of these agencies represent communities that have infant mortality rates that are comparable to Third World countries.
HRSA released Round 2 because it did not receive enough applicants for Round 1; but the Round 2 guidance clearly stated that Round 1 applicants would be reviewed and funded before Round 2 decisions were made. This is documented in a Feb. 20, 2014, webinar. This was a competitive process that was open to current HSI grantees as well as new grantees.
Instead of following its own guidelines, the Healthy Start administration decided to combine both pools of applicants. As a result, 25 of the Round 1 applicants, including Black Health Coalition of Wisconsin, were not funded although their applications had been approved. HRSA has admitted that it made errors in the grant award process, but it says it does not have enough money to fully fund the 25 urban and rural agencies around the country that have been harmed by their mistakes.
The 25 urban and rural communities across the country affected by this injustice need to be fully funded ASAP!
An adverse decision by the Healthy Start Initiative would deprive our project of critically needed support. The black/white infant mortality gap in Milwaukee is too great for BHCW to go without this important grant.
BHCW appreciates the legislative support we have received from U.S. Rep. Gwen Moore and U.S. Sen. Tammy Baldwin. We also appreciate the letter that was sent to HRSA by Wisconsin legislators Mandela Barnes, La Tonya Johnson, JoCasta Zamarripa, Cory Mason, Evan Goyke, Frederick Kessler, Leon Young, Jon Richards and Sandy Pasch, as well as state Senators Nikiya Harris-Dodd and Lena C. Taylor.
BHCW is asking the community for support so the pressure stays on the federal government until it makes things right with the agencies that were harmed. BHCW is urging President Obama to hold the HRSA accountable for its admitted mistakes and order full funding to the 25 agencies across the country that were approved, but not funded, to fight infant mortality disparities.
We ask all our supporters to sign BHCW’s petition on Change.org.