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Annual Report Shows Troubling Data About Maine Children's Health

Maine Children's Alliance
A Hypothetical Classroom of 25 First Graders in Maine

Prenatal care and children's mental health are among areas of concern identified in the latest Maine Kids Count Data Book. According to the report produced by the Maine Children's Alliance, Maine's infant mortality rate is high, as is the number of children diagnosed with anxiety and depression. But the findings suggest that Maine has made progress in other areas.

Maine’s infant mortality rate is higher than the national average, with about 80 children under the age of one dying every year.

Helen Hemminger of the Maine Children’s Alliance says that at one point, Maine had the lowest infant mortality rate in the country.

"Most recently that hasn't been true,” Hemminger says. “We've been above state averages. And we've done better the last three years. It's been going down, but we're still above national averages, so that's still an area of concern."

Hemminger says about 80 children below the age of one die every year in Maine. She says better access to prenatal care and programs that help new parents in the home would help reduce that number.

One in 12 babies is also born exposed to or affected by substances, which can cause developmental delays.

Hemminger says Maine ranks the worst in the United State for intervention services for babies.

"In terms of developing brains, it's best that children get the services as close to birth as possible, no matter what type of issue they are having," Hemminger says.

Maine also has the highest rate in the nation of children diagnosed with anxiety and the third highest diagnosed with depression.

Hemminger says the data also show that Maine children have the highest rate of access to mental health counseling, but "it didn't speak to the number of visits, or the adequacy of that service, or even if it helps, so it's really not a full picture."

Other indicators of children's health and well-being have improved. The report finds that Maine's rate of childhood poverty is down, as are teen pregnancies.

Updated 3:07 p.m. March 28, 2019.