State lawmakers are currently working on Senate Bill 332, a much-needed response to Ohio’s shamefully high rate of infant mortality that could pass during lame duck session. COHHIO welcomes the legislature’s recognition that housing insecurity contributes to high infant mortality rates – something advocates have known for years, as evidenced in this WPA poster from the 1930s.

COHHIO is working to ensure that housing-related provisions of this wide-ranging bill are effective and don’t have any unintended consequences for both the state and local agencies serving homeless families and children.

We successfully advocated for an amendment that would authorize the Ohio Housing Finance Agency to establish a three-year rental assistance pilot program for extremely low-income pregnant women and new mothers – this type of assistance will prove effective in reducing infant mortality and the evaluation component will enable the state to determine its efficacy. We also support the inclusion of a requirement for OHFA to include infant mortality as a priority housing need in the agency’s annual plan to address the state’s housing needs.

COHHIO is actively working to fix other provisions that could unintentionally conflict with health information privacy laws, HMIS data quality standards and inadvertently cause headaches for homeless shelters trying to effectively house pregnant women and families. Once this language is fixed, we are confident the bill will positively impact Ohio’s infant mortality problem.

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