Watch: First Lady Wolf discusses maternal health for female former inmates

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HARRISBURG — First Lady Frances Wolf hosted the second session of  Women In Reentry: Maternal Health and Family Well-Being.

This was the second in a series of virtual conversations between formerly incarcerated women, reentry advocates and maternal health professionals. The panel discussed the impacts of incarceration on a woman’s maternal health and the implications they can have on her children and family.

“Women who enter the criminal justice system as mothers or expecting mothers come home to the responsibility of caring for their children, and unfortunately, there are a host of challenges that can make their transition especially difficult,” said First Lady Frances Wolf. “We must do all we can to support and empower these women so that they and their families can thrive.”

There are approximately 30 to 50 pregnancies a year within Pennsylvania’s state correctional facilities, while over half of all women in U.S. prisons and 80 percent of women in jails are mothers. 

In August, the Wolf Administration expanded the Medicaid postpartum coverage period to one year following the birth of a baby from the former coverage of 60 days. 

The Department of Human Services also helps mothers reentering society by providing first-time, low-income mothers, birthing parents and all families with health care information, health education and emotional support during home visits.

“Our earliest weeks, months, and years have a lifelong impact on a person’s life. This should be a time of great joy for parents and children, but the constant learning and adjustments can be stressful, particularly if a parent is going through a co-occurring life change like reentering,” said Sara Goulet, Special Assistant to the Secretary of the Department of Human Services. “Families deserve partners and advocates during this time to ensure that both parents and children are growing and developing healthily together. By embedding these resources, we can give parents and children the support and sense of community they deserve.”

In May, Representative Morgan Cephas (D-Philadelphia), along with Reps. Tina Davis, Mike Jones, and Lori A. Mizgorski, introduced the Dignity for Incarcerated Women Act, a bipartisan legislation that addresses the healthcare needs of incarcerated women.

The next Women in Reentry roundtable is scheduled for Wednesday, Dec. 1 at 12 p.m., focusing on mental health and substance use.    

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