The quality of care and education children receive in their earliest years can affect them for a lifetime. Many children in Louisiana do not have access to a strong early care and education programs and more than 1 in 3 grow up in high-risk environments, according to the new 2016 Early Childhood Risk and Reach in Louisiana report. Conducted by the Tulane Institute of Infant and Early Childhood Mental Health and the Louisiana Department of Health, the study measures economic, health, and education risk for young children in each parish. The authors also measured the availability of quality early education programs across the state, which they argue can offset many of the socioeconomic challenges facing Louisiana children:
There are an estimated 310,817 children under age five in Louisiana. An average score of “Low Risk” suggests that the young children in that parish are more likely to be well-prepared and ready for school. By contrast, a score of “High Risk” suggests that the young children in that parish are at risk of entering school already behind, remaining behind, and failing to achieve positive outcomes in school and beyond. … In total, 114,751 children live in the 32 parishes that are either Moderate-High or High Risk, representing approximately 36.9 percent of all children under age 5 in Louisiana.
Four months of CHIP funding remain
The Louisiana Department of Health is researching how it would cut eligibility for the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP) if Congress doesn’t agree to fund the program before the state runs out of money in early 2018. The program, which is available to moderate-income children who don’t qualify for Medicaid, serves more than 1 in 10 kids in Louisiana. Associated Press reporter Melinda Deslatte has the story:
“With dire budget problems at our doorstep, Louisiana would be hard-pressed to maintain current levels of health care access for these vulnerable children,” Andrew Tuozzolo, chief of staff for the Louisiana Department of Health, said Wednesday in a statement. As many as one in six children and pregnant women who otherwise would be eligible for the program in Louisiana could lose their coverage if Congress doesn’t renew CHIP, according to a state document outlining the impact of the expiration. Changing eligibility to shrink the number of people in the program, however, would require approval from the federal Medicaid agency.
On Capitol Hill, Republican lawmakers offered a controversial list of ways to pay for the next five years of CHIP, including cutting some Medicaid payments for prenatal care and reducing funding for some Affordable Care Act programs. Vox’s Sarah Kliff explains that the proposal will be difficult for Democrats to swallow, which could lead to an impasse.
The high cost of hunger
Louisiana has the second-highest rate of food insecurity in the country, with 18.3 percent of residents struggling to afford a consistent diet. Still, the U.S. House of Representative are set to vote on a budget resolution today that could cut $10 billion from the SNAP program, which helps more than 400,000 low-income households in Louisiana afford food. Cutting SNAP would not only increase hunger in our state, but would also drive up health care costs. Writing for Time magazine, Drs. Hilary K. Seligman, Seth A. Berkowitz and Sanjay Basu explain their latest research findings:
One in three Americans with chronic illness has trouble affording food, medication or both. Moreover, the stress of worrying about where your next meal is coming from is associated with depressive symptoms, which only makes the task of managing a complex disease harder. It is not surprising, then, that food insecurity comes with a cost. On average, food insecure people in the U.S. incur an extra $1,800 in medical costs every year, accounting for $77.5 billion in additional health care expenditures. … In a new study published in JAMA Internal Medicine, we found that people who are enrolled in SNAP have health care expenditures that are, on average, $1,400 less per year compared with similar people who are not enrolled in SNAP.
More data needed in jury trials
Louisiana is one of only two states that allow non-unanimous jury verdicts in serious felony cases, a law that dates back to the state’s post-Reconstruction constitutional convention. Since 1898, a person in Louisiana can be convicted of murder and sentenced to life without parole even if two of 12 jurors disagree with the decision. It is unclear, however, how often non-unanimous jury decisions occur, in what cases, and whether they are effectively silencing black jurors, because courts are not required to collect and report that data. In a guest column for Nola.com/The Times Picayune, Emily Maw and Jee Park with the Innocence Project New Orleans explain why that is a major problem:
In June, when Gov. John Bel Edwards signed criminal justice reform laws to cut Louisiana’s disgracefully large prison population, evidence-based and data-driven decisions won the day. … Exploited fears and anecdotes of harm gave way to numbers and facts. As data helps us slowly shed our reputation as imprisonment capital of the world, we also must demand courts provide data on non-unanimous jury verdicts so that Louisianans can see the effect of the law and decide if we want it .Data may show that it has no significant racially discriminatory impact, or that black jurors are disproportionately the ignored minority on a jury.
Number of the Day
$55.8 million- Amount of federal grant money Louisiana was selected to receive to improve literacy rates among children from birth to grade 12. (Source: Will Sentell, The Advocate)