LITTLE ROCK, Ark. – Gov. Asa Hutchinson announced Tuesday morning that Arkansas is looking to expand initiatives focused on child and maternal health in 2023.

Hutchinson began by saying that the state has made progress in children health and wellbeing within the last 10 years. He noted that the percentage of children living in high poverty areas, teen births and children without health care has decreased.

He also stressed that the state still has a goal of working on the increased percentages of child and teen deaths and low birth weight babies in Arkansas. To address the issues, he asked the Arkansas Department of Health and the Arkansas Department of Human Services for recommendations on improving child welfare.

Before announcing the initiatives, Hutchinson said that the state is expecting to have an increase of teen pregnancy after Arkansas banned abortions following the overturn of Roe v. Wade. He assured that state officials have taken steps to increase the opportunity for adoption and foster care.

The first initiative that Hutchinson mentioned is an expansion of the ARHOME initiative that was launched in 2021. The $18.9 billion initiative is looking to expand services to maternal care and is expected to start in January 2023.

The second initiative will expand traditional Medicaid coverage for pregnant women. Hutchinson said that coverage for pregnant women are limited to the child and conditions related to the child. The $1.2 billion initiative will provide coverage for mental health services and non pregnancy medical conditions for mothers. It is expected to begin in January 2023.

Hutchinson also discussed another initiative focused on foster care in the state. He said he asked the legislature to consider increasing the monthly payments for foster parents as well as providing payments to foster parents who are related to the child. He asked the general assembly to consider the $10.2 million initiative in January.

The initiatives from the Arkansas Department of Health focuses on home visitor training. Hutchinson said the state is looking to expand services and trainings to identify mental health issues in mothers after birth. Hutchinson said he has allocated $350,000 to the training efforts. He said that the state has created a hotline (1855ARKMOMS) for pregnant women in need of health services during and after birth.

A live stream of the full briefing is available in the video player on this page.