The N.C. Department of Health and Human Services Division of Public Health announced the Buncombe County Department of Health will receive a portion of $1.6 million in federal grants allocated to North Carolina for the Maternal, Infant and Early Childhood Home Visiting Program, a provision of the 2010 Affordable Care Act. The grant will be used to expand the county’s Nurse-Family Partnership (NFP) program, which was implemented by the Buncombe County Department of Health in 2009. It is one of five agencies in the state that will receive federal funds for evidence-based home visiting programs.
As a community grant recipient, the health department will hire an additional NFP nurse, allowing the program to serve 25 additional first-time, low-income mothers. NFP staff currently includes four registered nurses and a masters-prepared nurse supervisor.
“Nurse-Family Partnership is a perfect fit with the Buncombe County Health Department’s community health priority to focus on family support and education,” said Gibbie Harris, health director of the Buncombe County Health Department and NFP site administrator. “Despite the strength of our Nurse-Family Partnership program, we have much more work to do in the community. We look forward to working closely with the N.C. Division of Public Health to strengthen Buncombe County families.”
The federal Maternal, Infant and Early Childhood Home Visiting Program is designed to improve health and development outcomes for young at-risk children through evidence-based home visiting programs. NFP is one of the oldest and most rigorously evaluated home-visiting programs in the nation. Through ongoing home visits from a registered nurse, low-income, first-time mothers receive the education and care they need to improve pregnancy outcomes, improve child health and development, and become more economically self-sufficient.
Since Buncombe County NFP first began, more than 140 mothers and 100 babies have been served. The program has been successful in decreasing incidence of preterm labor, encouraging teen mothers to complete school or return to work, and helping clients engage in healthy practices. In fact, 75 percent of the teen caseload has remained in school, nearly 80 percent of all clients have initiated breastfeeding, and 100 percent of clients have had their children receive all childhood immunizations by child age one.
Within Buncombe County are high-need areas facing challenges NFP is designed to address. These areas have higher than average rates of premature birth, infant mortality, poverty, crime, domestic violence, high school dropouts, substance abuse, unemployment and child maltreatment. Mothers who enroll in NFP gain critical insights and real-world skills from a registered nurse to help them overcome such challenges and become knowledgeable, healthy parents.
“Babies don’t come with manuals,” said Jennings Garry, BSN, CNM, MS, Buncombe County NFP nurse supervisor. “When you’re a new mother with limited resources, it’s difficult to know all the things required to be a successful parent. By growing our team of registered nurses, we can empower more families to make a healthy start.”
The four other NC agencies that will receive a portion of federal funds for home visitation programs include the Center for Child and Family Health (Durham), the Gaston County Health Department, the Toe River Health Department (Mitchell and Yancey Counties), and the Northampton County Health Department (serving Northampton, Halifax, Edgecombe, and Hertford Counties). The Gaston and Northampton County Health Departments will use their grants to establish two new NFP programs.
Prior to this expansion, NFP has been providing services in 10 North Carolina counties with support from a statewide partnership of organizations. The partnership is comprised of The Duke Endowment, The Kate B. Reynolds Charitable Trust, the North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services Division of Public Health, the Blue Cross and Blue Shield of North Carolina Foundation, The North Carolina Partnership for Children, Inc., and Prevent Child Abuse North Carolina, with strong support from the Nurse-Family Partnership National Service Office. Counties with existing NFP programs include Buncombe, Cleveland, Wake, Pitt, Guilford, Rutherford, Polk, Mecklenburg, McDowell and Robeson.