Illinois Passes Historic Provisions to Increase Access to Home Visiting & Doula Services

Start Early and EverThrive Illinois celebrate House Bill 158, which creates a framework to expand Medicaid to cover home visiting and doula services. It’s the latest in a historic package of legislation to advance racial equity in the state.

March 29, 2021
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Start Early and EverThrive Illinois are thrilled the Illinois Senate approved House Bill 158 (HB158). The bill now moves to Governor J.B. Pritzker‘s desk for his signature. Among other historic provisions, the legislation creates the statutory framework for expanding Medicaid to cover home visiting and doula services. We extend our deepest gratitude to the Illinois Legislative Black Caucus for crafting a series of bills this year, including HB158, that centered the needs and experiences of Black Illinoisians, who we know are acutely impacted by institutional and systemic racism.  We further extend our gratitude to the General Assembly members for the thoughtful consideration and ultimate passing of these provisions. 

“Quality caregiver-child relationships and interactions create the foundational skills children need to succeed in school and life. Adverse maternal health outcomes, especially Black maternal outcomes, are a fundamental threat to these relationships’ success,” said Ireta Gasner, vice president of Illinois Policy at Start Early.  

A 2018 IDPH report found that Black birthing-parents are six times more likely to die from a pregnancy-related incident than their white counterparts in Illinois. This is unacceptable, and pregnant people deserve better. 

We believe increasing access to perinatal supports through doula and home visitor support will increase access to pregnancy education, connection to health providers and ultimately reduce maternal morbidity and improve health outcomes in Illinois. It was time to pass this bill,” said Chi Chi Okwu, executive director of EverThrive Illinois.

We are thankful to the Illinois General Assembly for sending the Black Caucus’ health and human services pillar to the Governor’s desk. Besides expanding Medicaid for home visiting and doula services, HB158 also:

  • Establishes implicit bias training for health care professionals
  • Expands training for early childhood professionals on trauma or adverse childhood experiences
  • Expands the coverage of eligible family members for employee sick leave

While we celebrate this monumental victory for children and families in Illinois, we acknowledge that this is just one small step in addressing the disparate experiences of children and families of color in Illinois. As written, HB158 provides the statutory language for the expansion of Medicaid to cover home visiting and doula services. However, this coverage is subject to appropriation. We are eager to continue the work with the Pritzker administration and the General Assembly to ensure that these provisions are adequately funded year over year. We also look forward to working collectively to make Illinois the best state in the nation for young children and families.

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