The Benton Franklin Health District soon could have a new team of nurses to help babies in Franklin County get a good start in life.
The district has applied to the state Department of Early Learning and Thrive By Five to become part of the Nurse Family Partnership Program, a program that involves home visits for pregnant women and families with young kids to ensure the children have happy, healthy and safe environments in which to grow.
"It's basically an intensive home-visiting program for women during pregnancy and the first couple of years of life for infants," Jason Zaccaria, the health district's administrator, told the Herald.
Zaccaria said the health district was told to put together a budget request for the program and is waiting for word on whether the request has been approved.
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If approved, the district would get $600,000 a year for three years to pay for four full-time public health nurses, a full-time supervisor and a half-time administrative assistant for the program, Zaccaria said.
Those are jobs that would be added to the district, he said.
The Nurse Family Partnership is a national program based in Denver with the goal of helping pregnant women learn good preventive health practices, according to the program's website.
That includes making sure pregnant women are getting prenatal care, eating healthy diets and reducing their use of cigarettes, alcohol and illegal substances.
The program also helps families toward economic self-sufficiency by helping parents develop a vision for their family's future, which may include getting an education or finding work, the website said.
Nurses employed by the program make home visits to families from the first trimester of pregnancy through the child's second birthday to ensure early intervention to improve the health of the mother and child.
The idea is to give children the best possible shot at healthy development in the critical first 30 months of life, the website said.
Zaccaria said 100 families in Franklin County have been identified as possible participants, but if the program is successful, locally the district hopes to expand later into Benton County.
The health district board gets final approval about whether to implement the program and hire the staff. Zaccaria hopes they will be able to make a decision at the October board meeting.
-- Michelle Dupler: 582-1543; firstname.lastname@example.org