Federal grant allows for local Nurse-Family Partnership program expansion

A portion of a $1.6 million grant will help Buncombe County’s Department of Health help more first-time, low-income mothers than ever before in its Nurse-Family Partnership program. “Babies don’t come with manuals,” says Jennings Garry, 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.”

Allocated to the state for its Maternal, Infant and Early Childhood Home Visiting Program, the grant will enable Buncombe to hire an additional nurse for the NFP program, which started in 2009. NFP staff currently includes four registered nurses and a masters-prepared nurse supervisor.

“We started this program a little more than a year and a half ago … and we filled up very quickly,” says Gibbie Harris, director of the Buncombe County Health Department and NFP site administrator. “This additional nurse will give us a chance to expand to more families.”

Since the program’s inception, 144 mothers and 100 babies have been helped. That’s a benefit to the entire community. “From an early childhood standpoint, if these kids get a good start, then they are more likely to have less jail time, more education, and all these things that really make the whole community stronger,” says Garry. “The program’s focused on moms and their babies, but the implications don’t stop there.”

It’s 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 program clients have stayed in school, nearly 80 percent have started breastfeeding, and all the children get their childhood immunizations by the time they’re one year old.

Some parts of Buncombe have higher-than-average rates of premature birth, infant mortality, poverty, crime, domestic violence, high-school dropouts, substance abuse, unemployment and child abuse. 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.

Harris says, “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.”

North Carolina’s Maternal, Infant and Early Childhood Home Visiting Program is a provision of the 2010 Affordable Care Act. For more information about Buncombe’s NFP program, click here or call 707-3069.

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