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Tennessee will become the first state to provide families with baby diapers

The state's Medicaid program will start covering 100 diapers a month for newborns, infants and 1-year-olds.
Boxes of diapers on a shelf
Posted at 12:13 PM, May 21, 2024

Many families are struggling with rising monthly expenses. For families with children in diapers, extra costs are really hard to manage.

According to the National Diaper Bank Network, 92% of families receiving diapers in Tennessee are working and still are unable to afford an adequate supply of diapers.

Fortunately, a new benefit for families with TennCare could be coming at the perfect time.

It was just announced that the state's Medicaid program will start covering 100 diapers a month for newborns, infants and 1-year-olds.

"They're expensive, so this is going to be a huge, huge break," said Doug Adair, president of Nashville Diaper Connection.

When diapers aren't available, that can lead to a painful diaper rash or infection for the baby and anxiety or depression in parents, according to Nashville Diaper Connection.

"It's obviously important for the baby to be clean and dry, it helps them be more healthy, [and] if a parent can change the diapers when needed, it reduces the chances that child is going to get diaper rash or a UTI — which can lead to additional stress and impact," Adair said.

The diaper bank helped 4,600 babies every month last year. It gave away more than 3 million diapers in 2023. The majority went to families with TennCare. The Nashville Diaper Connection is one of five diaper banks in the state. The organization estimates that under this new benefit, TennCare will give out close to 100 million diapers.

Last Friday, the Centers of Medicare and Medicaid Services approved Tennessee's plan to cover the cost of 100 diapers a month for TennCare and CoverKids members under age 2. Additionally, they approved more parents and caregivers to qualify for TennCare. That starts June 1.

"Operationally they are making sure that this is a true and immediate and long term and impactful benefit for their members," Adair said.

If this plan sounds familiar, it's because the proposal was part of Governor's Bill Lee's Strong Families Initiative, approved by the General Assembly in 2023.

Tennessee is the first state to help families cover the cost of diapers.

This doesn't mean diaper banks are closing up shop.

"Food stamps have been around a long time and Second Harvest and other food banks aren't getting any smaller," Adair said.

There are a few ways to help the diaper bank, including donating diapers, giving money or buying from the diaper bank's wish list and registry.

This story was originally published by Hannah McDonald at Scripps News Nashville.