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Black Health Coalition of Wisconsin could lose 80% of its funding

An organization instrumental in Milwaukee's fight against infant mortality could soon lose most of its funding. 

\"We still see black babies dying 3-4 times more so than white babies,\" said Clarene Mitchell, a spokesperson for the Black Health Coalition of Wisconsin.

The Black Health Coalition of Wisconsin (BHCW) has helped save at least 8,000 babies since 1998, serving more than 500 families each year in its Milwaukee Healthy Beginnings Project.  The initiative combats infant mortality in the black community, and provides assistance to families at risk.

\"It is very hard, knowing that other agencies have said no to them, or not allowed them to get the needed services,\" said Mitchell.

A grant from the US Department of Health and Human Services has funded the Milwaukee Healthy Beginnings Project for 15-years, but this year federal officials said no to the project.

\"This injustice needs to be rectified,\" said Mitchell.

The coalition started a petition to fight for federal funding.  If they don't get the $700,000 they need, the coalition will be forced to layoff most of its employees and end case work for at-risk families.

\"We need them,\" said Bevan Baker, Health Commissioner for the City of Milwaukee, \"they're vital, we know that they're going to exist in some capacity, we hope that it's in full capacity in the future.\"

Baker is calling on the state to step up.

\"I would encourage the governor and legislature to reinvest, they can step in and provide initial funding,\" said Baker.

While infant mortality is prevalent in the Black Community, health officials say above all things-- it's a community issue.

\"It's not just a black issue, with black babies dying, this impacts the whole community, the health of the whole community, babies dying is a sign that this community is not well,\" said Mitchell.

Mayor Tom Barrett, of the City of Milwaukee also expressed disappointment by the loss in federal funding.  He said in a statement-- \"At a time when Milwaukee needs more resources to tackle infant mortality and racial disparities in birth outcomes, the loss of this funding is a significant setback.\"   

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