Governor Glenn Youngkin announced today that 107 individuals have become state-certified community doulas in the Commonwealth and are now providing services to Virginia’s women and their families. The achievement of this important milestone highlights the successful collaboration between the Virginia Department of Health (VDH) and the Virginia Department of Medical Assistance Services (DMAS) and comes just one year after VDH established the requirements for doula state certification on January 6, 2022, and the launch of the Virginia Medicaid Community Doula benefit.
Last week, Governor Glenn Youngkin was present at the grand opening of the new Urban Baby Beginnings maternal health hub in Petersburg. “I continue to be committed to improving maternal and infant health outcomes in the Commonwealth,” said Governor Glenn Youngkin, who was present at the health hub’s grand opening. “The new maternal health hub truly exemplifies the Partnership for Petersburg, bringing together many state and community partnerships to make this possible.”
The maternal health hub, located at 1965 Wakefield Street in Petersburg, VA, was created through a three-year, $825,000 grant from the Anthem Blue Cross and Blue Shield Foundation.
“As we prioritize maternal health from pregnancy to life with a newborn, the maternal health hub is a helpful resource for Virginia families, especially mothers,” said First Lady Suzanne S. Youngkin. “The Petersburg maternal health hub, along with several other hubs operating in the state, offer a community-based model of care to enhance maternal and child health outcomes.”
Urban Baby Beginning will support pregnant and postpartum mothers and offer supportive services to doulas. Currently there are 107 state-certified doulas within the Commonwealth, 57 of which are also Medicaid doula providers. Engagement efforts have been ongoing within the state to bring awareness about doulas, doula state certification, and the new Medicaid doula benefit.
“We must continue to build on our collective work to ensure mother and baby receive critical prenatal and postpartum care.” says Virginia Secretary of Health and Human Resources John Littel. “The wrap-around services and doula support provided by Urban Baby Beginnings will help ensure mothers and babies are healthy and supported.”
“Through the Partnership for Petersburg and the doula benefit, we have committed to enhancing access to care for the over 300 Petersburg women who give birth through the Virginia Medicaid program every year.” says DMAS Director Cheryl J. Roberts. “The Urban Baby Beginnings maternal health hub aligns well with these goals, and we are excited to continue to collaborate in providing services to this community.”
Doulas are trained, non-medical professionals who provide continuous physical, emotional, and informational support, including childbirth education and lactation support, to pregnant mothers before and throughout pregnancy, during labor and delivery, and up to one year after birth. Doulas also provide a connection to local community resources and referrals for health or social services such as food, transportation, and housing. The availability of state-certified doulas within the Commonwealth who are now eligible for Medicaid reimbursement means greater access to advice, care, and support with the goal of improving maternal and infant health outcomes.
“Doulas play an important role in supporting pregnant moms before, during and after delivery. Expanding the use of doulas across the Commonwealth will lead to improved birth outcomes such as lower preterm birth rates and other benefits including the reduced likelihood of a cesarean birth and higher likelihood of breastfeeding initiation,” said VDH Acting State Health Commissioner Parham Jaberi, MD, MPH.
To become a state-certified doula, individuals must complete all education and training requirements which include 60 hours of training in core competency areas and submit a state-certified doula application to the Virginia Certification Board (VCB). Doulas who become state-certified through the VCB are then eligible to apply to become Medicaid Doula Providers through the DMAS. Once approved, these providers can begin providing doula services to Medicaid’s 36,000 pregnant, and postpartum members.
Doulas have shared some of the reasons why they do this work is because it is “rewarding,” “powerful,” and “life changing,” and for the positive impact they feel they are having in supporting pregnant mothers before, during, and after delivery.
“We are pioneers. We are saving lives,” said Larissa Joos, a Medicaid Doula provider.