Mile High Legislative Report – Senator Murphy
Remember when Denver used to be called the Mile High City because of elevation? Last week I was sent by our state to participate in a conference on maternal and child health. North Dakota, like the other six states (Montana, SD, Minnesota, Wyoming, Utah and Colorado) and Samoa, sent health professionals and legislators to discuss and better understand how each delivers services to pregnant women, mothers and children. I learned a lot but got smoked by a blizzard of acronyms. Most of them, and I swear there had to be two hundred or more, were much more familiar to the pediatricians, nurses, Medicaid and the Health Department staffers who deal with them daily than they were to the legislators. An easy one, ACE, was counterintuitive for me because it stood for Adverse Childhood Experiences. That goes against my grain because when I am playing cards with friends, having four aces is a good thing. As you might guess, having a number of ACEs does not bode well for child development and the more one has, the level of predictable dysfunction or maladaptation rises. ACEs are used daily to evaluate or screen children who are being seen by any number of professionals trying to help families get on a healthier track.
My wife and I have been fortunate in that we have an education and careers that afforded us the ability to care adequately for our children, only one of which had a chronic disease that needs constant managing. Unfortunately, many families are lacking the capacity to deal with the difficulties life can dole out. Life is decidedly not fair and the more fortunate among us are often unaware of what types of poor circumstances can and do befall our neighbors. This conference was all about how each state team could interact with a couple of national experts to assess current status of services and hopefully come up with some ideas and an action plan to improve in their respective states.
We have immunization problems, but that did not make the list of priorities that we worked on. Some of those include reducing tobacco use in pregnant women, reducing disparities in infant mortality and fatal motor vehicle crash deaths for adolescents, increasing the number of children with special health care needs receiving transition support, dental services and others. Our state Health Department is taking the lead on this and that includes consultation with Medicaid and pediatricians amongst others.
To keep this brief, I will tell you that one of our ideas is to try to initiate a pilot program in one of our eight Regional Educational Areas that will pay for a school nurse because it turns out that school nurses, along with other teachers and counselors touch upon some of this material already. We are looking for some synergies that might help our less fortunate citizens to a better start in life.