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Delco Garners Nearly $1M in Federal Funds for Maternal Health

From a press release

Delaware County Council Chair Monica Taylor Ph.D., Vice Chair Elaine Paul Schaefer and Delaware County Health Department Director Melissa Lyon participated in a press conference hosted by Sen. Bob Casey and Congresswoman Mary Gay Scanlon on April 25 at the Delaware County Courthouse.

The press conference highlighted substantial funding for the Delaware County Health Department.

Casey and Scanlon, both Democrats, secured $954,000 in community project funding that will allow the Delaware County Health Department (DCHD) to create a new workforce development program to train Perinatal Community Health Care Workers (PCHW) and doulas who can work to reduce racial disparities in maternal health.

The program also aims to reduce racial and economic disparities in maternal care through education, targeted training, and deployment of doulas in communities that have the highest disparities in maternal and child health outcomes. The goal of this program is to ensure that Delaware County women will receive the support they need to assist in healthy pregnancies and deliveries, as well as reduce disparities in maternal and birth outcomes.

Casey and Scanlon fought for this community project funding to improve maternal health outcomes in Southeastern Pennsylvania and bolster the health care workforce.

“When the Delaware County Health Department applied for community project funding, it struck me that infant mortality rates were three times higher for babies born to Black mothers than those born to White mothers here in Delco,” said Casey. “If we are not keeping moms and babies safe, then we are not doing enough to keep our nation safe. By investing in community health workers, this project invests in those who know their community best, making them uniquely suited to provide the proper maternal health care to their neighbors.”

The disparate impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on people of color has brought a new focus to health disparities, including the longstanding inequities in maternal and infant health, officials said.

Many low-income families in Delaware County have challenges accessing healthcare and some families struggle because English is not a first language. Those challenges are also compounded by the fact that the Delaware County community recently lost a birthing hospital- Delaware County Memorial Hospital- which serves a large population, many of which are low-income and English is not their first language, officials said.

There is a crisis in Delaware County and throughout the nation regarding maternal and infant mortality. Black and Brown women are three times more likely to die during childbirth compared to White women. And research also shows that Black women are at significantly higher risk for severe maternal morbidity, such as preeclampsia. And Black women have higher rates of admission to the intensive care unit during delivery compared to White women. There are clear racial disparities in maternal and infant health and it’s critical that we work to raise awareness and create change, officials said.

“Every mother in our community deserves to live a happy, healthy life with her baby, but tragically, our country has the worst maternal health outcomes in the developed world, and Black women are three times more likely to die from childbirth than white women, said Scanlon.

“With this new federal funding for additional maternal health care workers and doulas, Delaware County is taking urgently needed action to reverse these alarming trends and protect our mothers and babies. I’m grateful for Sen. Casey and Delaware County’s partnership in advancing evidence-based solutions that will save lives and reduce disparities.”

Members of the newly created Delaware County Maternal Child Health Committee also attended the press conference. In February, county Council and the county Health Department formed the Delaware County Maternal Child Health Committee to address the critical public health issues facing mothers and children in our community. The committee is working to address the disparities in maternal health outcomes in Delaware County.

Subcommittees will be formed in other key areas of concern, including concerns that will be identified by the upcoming Delaware County Needs Assessment.

“The Committee’s expertise and passion surrounding maternal and children’s health can help the county to prevent deaths and also greatly improve the overall health and well-being of women, babies, and children across the county,” said Taylor. “As council and the County Health Department gain valuable information and data, we can utilize the community project funding to work to improve maternal health outcomes in Delaware County. Our goal is that every pregnant woman has a healthy pregnancy and their babies have a healthy start when they are brought into this world.”

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Delco DA, Court, County Council Announce More Help for Child Victims

From a press release

On March 2, 2023, President Judge Linda Cartisano swore in twelve new members of the Delaware County Child Abuse & Exploitation Task Force. The Task Force, established by District Attorney Jack Stollsteimer in September of 2020, is the first of its kind in the County. It is comprised of officers from the County’s municipal police departments who regularly work on child abuse cases under the supervision of the Deputy District Attorney for Special Victims and the Criminal Investigation Division’s Child Abuse Unit. Members of the Task Force receive special training in the best practices in the investigation and prosecution of these cases.

District Attorney Stollsteimer stated, “Child abuse cases are singularly difficult to prosecute. No other type of case presents such consistently complex psychological and social dynamics. No other type of case so often requires the assistant district attorney to go to trial with a child as the most crucial witness.  Child abuse victims face unique challenges.  In the vast majority of these cases the offender is a trusted authority figure – family member, friend, neighbor, babysitter, clergy member, scout master or teacher – who physically or sexually abuses a child dependent on that person. The stress on a child in this situation is extraordinary. Our office is committed to ensuring that we limit the additional trauma experienced by these child victim/witnesses.”

The Task Force is part of a multi-pronged strategy by Stollsteimer, the court, and county council to protect the County’s children from abuse and exploitation. In addition to the Task Force, in the summer of 2022 then-President Judge Kevin Kelly signed an order designating a single District Court as the Delaware County Child Abuse Magisterial District Court.

The court, which is presided over by MDJ Andrew Goldberg in Upper Providence, has been established to handle cases where the victim is a minor and the matter was charged by a member of the Child Abuse & Exploitation Task Force, or a minor is a necessary witness to a crime. The designation of a single District Court to hear these difficult cases reflects the recognition by the court that steps must be taken to ensure that the legal process – in its search for justice for the victims – does not inflict additional trauma on the children involved.

By making various changes from the normal District Court process, the goal of the Children’s Court is to reduce the stress on the children. For example, the court has a separate space for the victims so they do not need to wait with their offenders prior to the hearing. With contributions from the Victim Assistance Center, books and toys have been added to the space to make it more comfortable for the children. In addition, each case will have a specific time for their hearing, so that the children do not wait through a list of dozens of other cases. The court will also allow comfort animals as requested.

“Simply put, there can be no higher priority for the court than the protection of our children, particularly those that have been traumatized as victims of abuse. The court has been gratified by the success of its collaboration with all of the stake-holders in the creation of the Children’s Court, and we see it as evidence of the continuing commitment of the County to employ best practices in the prosecution of these difficult cases,” said President Judge Linda Cartisano.

In addition to supporting the development of the Task Force and the Children’s Court, County Council has been working closely with the Children’s Advocacy Center, a program of Family Support Line, to ensure that both the CAC and FSL have the funding and the space that they require to do their work. Prosecutors and the Court rely on the CAC to conduct the forensic interviews that are absolutely critical to any successful prosecution. In order to conduct their work in the most accessible, comfortable and professional manner possible, in 2021 it was recognized that new accommodations were required. To that end, the CAC has worked with County Council to identify new accommodations and to ensure that adequate funding would continue to available.

“Our children are our future, and supporting the organizations that perform critical services to protect and support our children is  an essential part of County Council’s mandate. We are enormously grateful for the work done by all of our partner agencies, and we welcome the opportunity to support their critical work,” said Council Chair Monica Taylor PhD.

The Court, the District Attorney’s office, and County Council encourage the public to become more aware of the signs of child abuse and neglect and how to report suspected abuse. If you suspect a case of child abuse or endangerment, please call ChildLine at 1-800-932-0313.