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Bills to Improve Health Outcomes in Minority Communities Advance


Trenton – In an effort to increase access to adequate healthcare services, the Senate Health, Human Services and Senior Citizens Committee today advanced a pair of bills sponsored by Senators Shirley K. Turner, Andrew Zwicker, and Senate Majority Leader M. Teresa Ruiz, which would increase access to comprehensive sickle cell treatment care and promote equitable maternal and infant health care services.


The first bill, S-2710, sponsored by Senators Turner and Zwicker, would require the Department of Health (DOH) to establish a three year sickle cell center pilot program. The bill would provide $10.2 million in grants to federally qualified health centers selected for participation in the program.


“Despite medical advances, sickle cell patients continue to have difficulty accessing specialty care, which in turn disproportionately affects Black and Latino communities, who are more likely to be born with the disease,” said Senator Turner (D-Hunterdon/Mercer). “The lack of a robust and well-resourced sickle cell specialty network limits patient access to new and potentially better treatment options. This bill is a first step to getting patients the care they deserve.”


Under the bill, six sickle cell comprehensive treatment centers would be established, with one center located in Jersey City, Newark, Paterson, Plainfield, Trenton, and Camden. The bill would direct the DOH, in collaboration with the treatment centers, to coordinate with health care facilities and professionals to establish sickle cell research and innovation centers within the treatment centers.


“While the need for expert sickle cell care is increasing in the State, there is a shortage of specialists and integrated comprehensive teams to provide coordinated medical, social, educational, and behavioral health services that patients need,” said Senator Zwicker (D-Hunterdon/Mercer/Middlesex/Somerset). “As a result, patients are forced to obtain care in hospital emergency departments and other non-sickle cell specialty settings. This legislation would address this issue by increasing patient access to centralized sickle cell specialty care.”


The second bill, S-3864, sponsored by Senator Turner and Majority Leader Ruiz, would establish the New Jersey Maternal and Infant Health Innovation Authority  in the Department of Treasury. The Authority would operate a Trenton-based New Jersey Maternal and Infant Health Innovation Center.


“New Jersey has one of the widest racial disparities for both maternal and infant mortality rates. Trenton is among the cities with one of the highest rates of Black and Hispanic infant mortality, while also having the least access to quality healthcare. Only 47 percent of mothers in Trenton receiving prenatal care in their first trimester,” said Senator Turner (D-Hunterdon/Mercer). “There has to be a greater emphasis on the maternal health of women of color, and the establishment of this center is a significant step in increasing access to efficient and effective maternal health care”


The New Jersey Maternal and Infant Health Innovation Center would serve as a first-of-its kind central hub to coordinate among national, State and local agencies, and private organizations to enhance maternal and infant health care services. The Center would be at the forefront of serving not only the families of Trenton, but of the State and the nation. The Center would promote collaborative partnerships for research and provide for the transfer of knowledge within the global maternal and infant health community.


“We have high quality hospitals all over New Jersey, yet women have a greater chance of dying due to childbirth here than they do in 46 other states,” said Senator Ruiz (D-Essex). “Black women are seven times more likely to die of pregnancy-related complications. That is absolutely unacceptable and has gone on for far too long. Women of color deserve quality care. In some instances, it is a matter of life and death which is why it is critical that we offer the utmost care through the creation of this Center.”


The Center would also serve as an incubator of new enterprises, therapeutics, and technological innovations leading to better health outcomes and reduced mortality and morbidity rates for women and children.


The bills were released from committee by a vote of 8-0 and 5-1.