New program will help families

The Kitsap Public Health District won a $87,500 grant that officials say will assist in the creation of a program to change the quality of life for area families and save money for the county in the long run.

The Kitsap Public Health District won a $87,500 grant that officials say will assist in the creation of a program to change the quality of life for area families and save money for the county in the long run.

The grant, provided by Thrive by Five Washington, will add to funds provided by Healthy Start Kitsap in the amount of $34,000 and $160,000 from the health district to begin a Nurse Family Partnership (NFP) home visiting program that will bring nurses to the homes of first-time mothers and provide outreach to 25 area families.

The NFP is a nationwide program based in Denver, Colo. Since its inception in Denver in the 1970s, the program has worked with 440 partners in 41 states.

The NFP program focuses visits for first time mothers within the first trimester of the woman’s pregnancy and continues visits until the child is 2 years old.

The program is designed to provide the new mothers with a host of life skills such as prenatal care, economic security and has been proven to reduce premature births, child abuse rates and law enforcement involvement.

Research from randomized control trials conducted by the partnership in three states over three decades as well as research by Washington state’s Institute for Public Policy, The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and other public entities support the group’s claims of making positive impacts around the nation.

The program has been proven to increase graduation rates for the children as well as improve economic self-sufficiency for the family and make many other dramatic differences.

Suzanne Plemmons, Director of Community Health for The Kitsap Public Health District, said a major reason for partnering with the group was its proven results.

“Over 30 years, the program has been proven to reduce child abuse, improve self-sufficiency, help kids do better in school and reduce the chance of juvenile involvement and create better rates of graduation,” she said.

Plemmons cited statistics garnered from studies that show a 79 percent reduction in premature deliveries, a 48 percent reduction in child abuse and neglect, and a 56 percent reduction in emergency room visits for accidents and poisoning.

The statistics also point toward a 59 percent reduction in child arrests at age 15, as well as 60 percent fewer arrests of the mother and 72 percent decrease in convictions of the mother and has been shown to increase paternal involvement by 46 percent, she said.

The program also cites statistics of 50 percent fewer language delays at 21 months of age and a 67 percent reduction in behavioral or intellectual problems at age 6 for children involved.

Brian Nyquist M.D., president of Healthy Start Kitsap, said he also was impressed with the statistics.

“The thing that impressed us most about this partnership is the data from studies,” he said. “The young moms who go through this program receive a bunch of benefits from the program.”

Nyquist said also on a personal and professional level he has seen the need for such a program in the area.

“I am a family physician originally, and in my work at Harrison, I see a lot of frightened young mothers who become pregnant and are anxious about the way their futures will unfold,” he said. “This will give them traction and help them forge ahead and make better future for themselves and their families.”

Ed Kalmbach, Executive Director of Healthy Start Kitsap, said he was impressed with the benefits statistics showed the program could provide society in general.

The program cites 20 percent decrease in months on welfare for families involved as well as a 82 percent increase in months employed for the mother

He said beyond the obvious court costs saved from the statistics regarding incarcerations, the program also has positive implications in other arenas of public funding.

Citing a 2005 RAND Corporation analysis that found a net benefit to society of $34,148 (in 2003 dollars) per higher-risk family served, with the bulk of the savings accruing to government, Kalmbach said the program proved to be a sensible dollar and cents model the group could embrace.

“There are a whole bunch of benefits to society with a $5.70 return for every dollar spent,” he said.

Kalmbach said the program is one that moves beyond statistics in partnering first-time mothers with nurses and creating a bond that can make a lifelong difference in the lives of families.

“The number one element of the program is the relationship the mother has with the nurse,” he said. “The nurse builds trust long before baby is born. There is no program that starts before pregnancy like this one does.”

Local nurses receive a week of primary training in Denver and continue to advance in the training program through distance learning.

Mindi Outhwaite, a public health nurse with the Central Kitsap Health District, was the first area nurse to receive training through Family Partnership.

She said the training provided by Nurse Family Partnership is extensive and ongoing. She attended a five-day training in Denver and will continue training with distance learning and assistance from Jefferson County Public Health which is collaborating with the district on the program.

“The training was great,” she said. “The program has so many wonderful tools to help you with clients. It is so inclusive of every aspect of pregnancy and parenting.”

Outhwaite said officials of the program are in the process of recruiting clients and beginning visitations.

“I am very excited about starting,” she said. “It is a wonderful program, and I know we will see a lot of great outcomes with the moms and families we will work with.”