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The Maternal, Infant and Child Health Program is a good use of resources

The Post Journal, Jamestown, Nov. 8

The havoc drugs and poverty can wreak on a child’s life are well documented.

It’s refreshing to see, then, the effectiveness of the Nurse Family Partnership, a Chautauqua County Department of Health and Human Services program that works with expectant mothers.

The Nurse Family Partnership program began in 2015 and consists of five nurses who work specifically with first-time mothers from pregnancy until the child is 2 years old. The Maternal, Infant and Child Health Program began in 2012 and is a peer education program where community health workers are trained by the state Health Department. Then, they go into homes and work with high-risk pregnant women to provide education, make referrals and give support. Mothers can be referred to the program by schools, CPS, WIC, obstetricians and other means. Both programs require either Medicaid or WIC eligibility to participate.

There are some who don’t like that the program actively pushes expectant mothers into social services programs or that people who likely shouldn’t be having children are being pushed toward public programs. That’s the wrong way to view the Health and Human Services Department programs.

Consider that many of these children are being born into families stuck in a cycle of poverty. Doing nothing means the cycle continues, and children born today will comprise the county’s social services caseload for the next several decades. Taking action now gives both today’s parents and the children they bear a chance at a better life.

Cathy Burgess, county Department of Health and Human Services director of maternal and infant health, told Board of Health members recently that one mother who became pregnant at 17 while hooked on methamphetamine was now, two years later, attending college, working full time and raising a healthy, happy child. Without assistance, the lives of the mother and child wouldn’t be as good as they are now.

“This is true public health at its best and we can’t allow these true evidence-based programs to go away,” Christine Schuyler, county health and human services director, told Board of Health members.

She’s right. The money the county spends on the program is well spent both in terms of saving money in the long run and helping mothers and children live better, healthier lives. There are many ways for the county to spend your money — the Maternal, Infant and Child Health Program is a good use of money.

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