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A pilot program aimed at supporting mothers and babies is showing significant success

Victoria Rodriguez shares her experience in participating in the DHMIC's Guaranteed Basic Income Program.
Quinn Kirkpatrick
Delaware Public Media
Victoria Rodriguez shares her experience in participating in the DHMIC's Guaranteed Basic Income Program.

The Guaranteed Basic Income Program, led by the Delaware Healthy Mother and Infant Consortium, is nearly done with a two year pilot run providing vulnerable pregnant women with a monthly income of $1000 in the form of a debit card to help pay for essential items and services needed to support a healthy birth outcome and postpartum period.

The program, based in the Rosehill Community Center, also provides wraparound services, including a caseworker, financial coach, and mental health and primary care services.

DHMIC chair Dr. Priscilla Mpasi says the primary goal is providing mothers in difficult circumstances a place to land and find support.

“And then number two seeing that people were investing in them, not just giving them a stipend, but teaching them life skills, financial skills, so that way they can navigate that independently at the end of the program,” said Mpasi. “And then again, a shared community among mothers where they can share lived experiences, best practices, and just be a network for each other as they go through motherhood.”

The program is now three quarters of the way done and officials say its yielding a 324% return on investment.

Of the 40 women participating, 89% were able to receive prenatal care, and 81% of their babies had no birth complications.

One of those mothers is Donielle Dorsey - a single mom with a 13 month old daughter. She says she wants to see the program grow.

“I want women that don't have a village at home to have a village in this community. That is the biggest thing because I've learned that since I have two separate villages, my own and this one, I can't fall. Because I have someone to rely on,” explained Dorsey. “And I feel like women who are in the same situations that we are, if they don't have that they're going to fail. And having that support, they don't want to fail. They want to feel good, they want to be supported, and they want that help. And I feel like this program is going to continue to do that.”

Women participating could offer feedback every 3 months to let organizers know what changes would help the program.

Victoria Rodriquez is another mother participating in the program.

“It's been amazing, honestly. The endless resources, like the financial guidance advisors, have helped my credit score grow. And mental health professionals have helped a lot with postpartum depression. It's just been a really, really great tool to make mine and my child's life easier and better,” she said..

Rodriguez graduates from college in May, just about the time the program ends. She says by then she’s confident that she’ll be able to sustain herself without the help of the extra monthly income - which is the intention of the Guaranteed Basic Income Program.

“The program shows that when we bring services together, and when we are intentional about the helping hand and the hand up, we can make it so that every mother and every child has the opportunity to access health and wellness regardless of their circumstances or what zip code they live in. This is truly a demonstration of health equity,” said Mpasi.

With the pilot ending in the next year, officials say they will now seek funding to continue and expand the program.

“We've demonstrated not only that there's a great return on investment, but there's actually decreased cost on the healthcare side. So that is now our charge, it's our call to action,” said Mpasi. “We need to advocate to our legislators, we need to advocate to the Division of Public Health, we need to advocate to the governor's office, we need to advocate to philanthropic groups, community-based organizations, to continue to provide that funding. So that way we can scale this program up to not just 40 women, but 400 women, or 4000 women, so we’re reaching all mothers across the state.”

In addition to the 324% return on investment demonstrated thus far, the program has also led to $229,520 saved in reduced hospital stays, and $21,600 saved in reduced Emergency Department visits.

Quinn Kirkpatrick was born and raised in Wilmington, Delaware, and graduated from the University of Delaware. She joined Delaware Public Media in June 2021.