Charlotte, N.C./Jan. 30, 2023 – During a recent Mecklenburg County Commissioner meeting, Johnson C. Smith University’s Lactation and Doula Program became one of 75 local projects funded with money allocated from the American Rescue Plan Act of 2021 (ARPA).
The county received $99 million in ARPA funds, which were granted by the federal government to stimulate the economy by providing money for state and local governments to make strategic investments in their communities.
The county commissioners set aside the money for affordable housing and homelessness; childcare and early childhood development; workforce and economic development; and parks, environment and infrastructure.
They also granted $34.2 million for 27 projects focused on behavioral health and health equity, of which JCSU was a recipient of $943,000.
“Speechless was my first response; it is an honor,” said Dr. Antonia Mead, chair of the Health and Human Performance Department. “This funding shows that the cries about maternal health have been recognized. It also shows that what we’ve been trying to do is important to Charlotte. JCSU’s program was created as a result of community requests and partnerships. We look forward to strengthening the partnerships and training competent birthing paraprofessionals.”
The JCSU project grant will be used to expand the Black Birthing Professions program which focuses on improving maternal and child health outcomes for families of color by widening access to professional training for individuals of colors.
This program encompasses the Lactation Consultant Training Program (LCTP) as well as the Birth Doula Certification.
The LCTP program, directed by TaHysha McClain, MA, IBCLC, focuses its efforts on preparing students to pass the International Board Certificated Lactation Consultant exam (IBCLC). The doula program focuses on training professionals who are equipped to provide physical and emotional support to clients before and shortly after childbirth.
While the plan for how the funding will be used has yet to be finalized, McClain expects it to support student tuition, hire support staff and aid students in exam prep to ensure JCSU maintains its 100 percent pass rate on the IBCLC exam.
The funds will also be used to promote and advertise for the Birth Doula program. Special emphasis will be placed on recruiting students graduating from Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools, demonstrating JCSU’s commitment and dedication to contributing to community empowerment.
Evidence suggests that both fields are comprised of predominately white professionals, which is something JCSU’s program hopes to address.
“Many times, the concerns of minority mothers are dismissed regardless of economic status,” said Mead. “Having someone there who can advocate for them to get the necessary treatment needed is important.”
“Research has shown that people respond better when they are able to visit providers who look and talk like them,” added McClain. “Representation in the lactation field could build trust within the medical community among people of color. This could have a trickle-down affect by improving the overall health outcomes of Black people, addressing issues like obesity rates, diabetes, heart disease and maternal disparities, all of which plague the Black community.”
For more information, or to learn how to get involved with JCSU’s lactation and doula program, contact McClain at email@example.com.