In spite of cuts, Nurse Family Partnership transition work has begun
The program will save county money, Health Officer argues
A refrain during the county’s long and contentious budget meeting went that if $140,000 was removed from the Nurse Family Partnership, the program wouldn’t be able to happen.
That turned out to not be true. Marathon County Health Officer Laura Scudiere told the county’s Health and Human Services Committee last week that the program is being implemented as you read this.
The program, which replaces the much more expensive Start Right program, employs specifically trained Registered Nurses to work with troubled families to ensure they raise healthy babies.
That’s based on research that shows ages 0-3 are critical stages for a child’s development. That comes from research from the LENA foundation, started by Jerry and Judi Paul who also founded Renaissance Learning in Wisconsin Rapids.
That premise became the foundation for the LENA Start program, which measures the vocabulary children are exposed to, largely through their parents. The more parents and other adults speak to their children, and the wider vocabulary they use, the more their brains develop. Marathon County was one of the first in the country to hold such sessions.
Range of help
But of course, that’s only one aspect. Scudiere demonstrated the range of things a nurse in the Family Nurse Partnership might deal with through a series of case studies. They were composites or fictionalizations of real situations the health department has seen previously through its Start Right program (the point was to anonymize enough of the story so the people involved couldn’t be identified).
The first case study involved a 14-year-old who was pregnant, had parents who drank excessively and who believed weed was just fine because her parents held the belief that weed was natural. How can NFP help?
Another involved a parent who came to them because the baby was crying for three days straight. It turned out the baby was losing weight (babies as many likely know are supposed to be gaining weight, not losing it) because they weren’t feeding it enough. The couple was living at a hotel with other people, and professionals were able to get the baby back to a healthy weight. The father was able to get not just one job but two, and the couple was planning to move to their own place. Nurses through Start Right literally saved the baby’s life, Scudiere tells me.
A third example involved a young woman being trafficked and who was pregnant. She didn’t seek help because she was afraid of authority figures and didn’t want to get in trouble. NFP nurses were able to build trust over time and get her into a better situation.
NFP ought to continue that. Here is some data from the outcomes of trials conducted to test the program’s efficacy:
But not only does Nurse Family Partnership continue that work, but it will do so at a much lower cost. How much lower?
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