South Carolina, ranked sixth in the nation in infant mortality, has announced a new effort to reduce infant mortality by ensuring the health of mothers on Medicaid. Physicians, hospitals and state agencies will help mothers seek treatment for substance abuse, depression and domestic violence.
The program, entitled Screening, Brief Intervention and Referral to Treatment (SBIRT), provides reimbursement and a questionnaire for use with each pregnant Medicaid patient. Domestic violence victims and survivors were targeted because they have a higher murder rate and rate of drug and alcohol abuse. South Carolina is ranked 7th in the nation for domestic violence.
South Carolina suffers from historically high infant mortality rates in part due to high poverty levels. According to America’s Health Rankings, SC is 45th in children in poverty at 25.7%. Only 66.5% of mothers receive early prenatal care. Lack of adequate early prenatal care can contribute to premature births and increase death rates.
Though infant death rates in South Carolina have improved over the past eleven years, South Carolina still faces a significant challenge in providing complete and adequate care for expecting mothers. Low income non-white mothers, especially, face challenges in accessing adequate care. Given the budget and health care accessibility challenges in South Carolina, the success of SBIRT is yet to be determined. The program begins in March 2012.