February 13, 2024 at 9:32 a.m.

WALKING THE WALK

Diocese, St. Peter’s continue discussion on expected closure of Burdett Birth Center


By MIKE MATVEY | Comments: 0 | Leave a comment

The Diocese of Albany made a pledge nearly two years ago to “walk with moms in need” as part of an initiative started by the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops.


Since then that is what the faithful have done and continued to do Feb. 6 in meeting again on how to help expectant mothers impacted by the expected closure of the Burdett Birth Center.


The discussion, which was organized by diocesan communications director Kathy Barrans and Bishop Edward B. Scharfenberger, at St. Pius X Church in Loudonville, furthered the diocesan outreach to coordinate and communicate to moms in need the services that are available that they might not be aware of.


It was announced last June that the Burdett Birth Center, which is located inside Troy’s Samaritan Hospital and is Rensselaer County’s only maternity ward, was set to close and the news was met with community backlash, particularly from area residents and birth workers who said closing the center would impact many low-income women and families who utilize the center and women who prefer its model of midwife care. 


In July of last year, Bishop Scharfenberger released a statement saying closing the center could have a “chilling impact” on moms and babies. On Sept. 18, the Bishop submitted a written statement for the record as part of a hearing for the center’s potential closure organized by New York Attorney General Tish James at Russell Sage College.


“If money can be found to keep Burdett operating, great. If not, let’s work together to find solutions,” Bishop Scharfenberger said at the time. “This hearing will hopefully shed light on specific needs. Let’s take that information and, instead of fighting each other for what we want, let’s also listen to each other, and work together to find solutions that can work for all.”


Since then, the Diocese of Albany and its partners have been brainstorming ideas to do just that. A diocesan group met last November but the meeting Feb. 6 was filled with representatives from St. Peter’s Health Partners (SPHP), including Kathy DeRosa, chief mission officer and VP of Community Health & Well-Being, as well as from the Gabriel Project, Gianna of Albany, Respect Life of the Diocese of Albany and the Miscarriage Ministry.


DeRosa said SPHP had submitted its closure/transition plan to the Department of Health in December and the closing date for Burdett Birth Center is slated for June 30. St. Peter's has stated that access to pre- and post-natal care will still be available in Troy.  A community forum regarding the transition plan for Burdett Birth Center will be held Feb. 28 at Hudson Valley Community College from 6-7:30 p.m., at the Bulmer Telecommunications Center, she added. Local leaders and the community are invited to attend. 


Transportation has been one of the biggest questions that needs to be answered, since most expectant mothers would have to find their way to St. Peter’s in Albany, Albany Medical Center or Belleview Women’s Center in Niskayuna. DeRosa said she hopes to have a transportation specialist in place by April and SPHP has contracted with a company in Troy to transport patients to their appointments. 


After DeRosa spoke, Barrans moderated the reminder of the night with representatives listening and bouncing ideas off each other. The group decided that an email chain would be started as well as an online resource directory to keep the lines of communication open. 


Bishop Scharfenberger, who began and ended the meeting with prayer, said “there is a connection that is bigger than you and I and I am feeling it here tonight … that connection is real and we are not alone.” 


Other services and groups that could help expectant mothers and moms that were discussed or had representatives present included:


St. Peter’s MOMs Program: The best way for expectant mothers to prepare for a strong healthy baby is to see their doctor regularly and one way to do that is to participate in the no-cost MOMs Program. Services include setting up prenatal appointments with an obstetrician, pregnancy education, nutrition counseling, one-on-one childbirth education, one-on-one breastfeeding education, family-planning education, referrals to primary care and pediatric services and programs, assistance in obtaining baby supplies, and assistance with transportation to doctors’ and MOMs’ appointments.

www.sphp.com/assets/documents/maternity/cfc-moms_bro.pdf .


Healthy Families of Rensselaer County (St. Peter’s program): The program begins with an assessment to determine the successes and challenges unique to each family, then provides a personal referral to meet the family’s needs and goals. The program also includes a home-visiting service, which is long term, designed to provide information and support. People/families are eligible if they are pregnant or parenting a baby who is younger than 3 months old. This program is specific to Rensselaer County.

www.sphp.com/assets/documents/sam/sphp-healthyfamilies_brochure.pdf.

 

St. Peter’s Baby Café & Lactation: Baby cafés are free resources for pregnant and breastfeeding families, offering support from specifically trained staff, opportunities to share and make friends, and open-forum discussions. www.healthprograms.org/breastfeeding-support/baby-cafes. Virtual opportunities are offered as well: Email [email protected] for the link to join a Baby Cafe virtually.


Doula Program at St. Peter’s: This program is launching this year in response to suggestions made by patients and others in the community. A doula is a professional who provides emotional, physical and educational support to pregnant women. Through the generous support of the Mother Cabrini Foundation, these services are at no charge to patients. 


Gabriel Project: The Gabriel Project is a confidential and compassionate outreach for women who are distressed over an unplanned pregnancy and relies on local Catholic parish communities to respond in a loving manner to the needs of the mother-to-be, witnessing to the infinite and healing love of God. This ministry is currently available through five parishes in the Diocese of Albany: St. Pius X in Loudonville; Sacred Heart in Stamford; Our Lady of Hope in Fort Plain; Our Lady of Hope in Copake Falls; and Holy Trinity (St. Mary’s) in Hudson. 


New Life Maternity: Provides a haven for expectant mothers who otherwise might choose abortion. Knowing over 70 percent of women choose abortion because of a lack of material and emotional support, providing a safe home for them truly gives a healthy option. Sisters of Life serve on their spiritual board. www.newlifematernity.org. This is a registered 501(c)(3). 


Gianna of Albany: Gianna of Albany offers a unique, exciting approach to women’s health and wellness. Gianna provides general and specialized gynecologic care and serves women with a deep commitment to honoring their dignity and the sanctity of human life. www.giannaofalbany.com.  


Community Maternity Services (Catholic Charities): Community Maternity Services (CMS), an agency of Catholic Charities of the Diocese of Albany, was founded in 1971 as a single residential program providing services to pregnant adolescents. The agency has grown over the years to meet the changing needs of the children, adolescents and families in our communities. Today CMS provides a continuum of services including care for pregnant and parenting adolescents, and their families, as well as group residence and prevention services and supports for families at risk. www.cccms.org.


Miscarriage Ministry: As Catholics we believe that life begins at the point of conception, yet, if a woman suffers a miscarriage, there are few support resources available. Katie Grogan and Shaunda Penny are working to change that. They are on a mission to start a Miscarriage Ministry in the Diocese of Albany. Their goals include adding the word miscarriage and stillborn to existing announcements about funerals and bereavement support groups, offer brochures in parishes about miscarriage and stillbirth, host a memorial Mass honoring all babies lost through miscarriage, offer burial services, and find funeral homes willing to work with this ministry. 


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