DeWine wants to triple home visits for at-risk young families

Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine signs an executive order to create the Advisory Committee on Home Visitation to help at-risk families with pregnancy and early childhood development during a press conference at Nationwide Children’s Hospital in Columbus on Tuesday. [Adam Cairns/Dispatch]
 
Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine wants to triple a state-funded home visitation program targeted at reducing infant mortality and promoting early childhood development among at-risk families.

In his first event as governor after his inauguration, DeWine signed an executive order Tuesday at Nationwide Children’s Hospital forming an advisory committee to develop recommendations for funding in his first state budget recommendations to lawmakers.

The state now spends a combined $28.2 million a year in federal and state funds to send nurses and social workers to the homes of low-income and impoverished first-time pregnant mothers to assist families and help children get a healthy start in life from birth to 3 years of age.

The program, at an average statewide cost of about $7,000 per household including overhead and administrative costs, now is limited to about 4,000 families in Ohio each year.

DeWine wants the number of families served at 12,000 — and even that is not enough since 100,000 families meet eligibility guidelines, the Republican said.

“We can do better. This an area we have grossly under invested. It’s the best money we can spend.”

Ohio’s infant mortality rate among white babies has slowly dwindled statewide, but death rates for African American infants have increased. Nearly 1,000 infants died before their first birthday in 2017. The rate of black deaths is triple that of white infants.

“It’s absolutely unbelievable,” DeWine said of the infant death rates. “We’ve heard it so much our eyes glass over … it’s not acceptable, it’s tragic.”

Dr. Steve Allen, chief executive officer at the children’s hospital, will serve on DeWine’s advisory committee. The Columbus hospital has two programs working to help families and reduce infant mortality, he said.

DeWine wants to work with the Ohio Children’s Hospitals Association and its members, such as Nationwide and Akron Children’s Hospital, to help expand services to needy families as part of his Opportunity for Every Ohio Kid initiative.

Following a news conference, First Lady Fran DeWine and her husband spoke with Moms2B community health worker Lateeya McGhee about her experiences. McGhee, 33, a mother of two, is a graduate of the Moms2B program, a support and assistance group for high-risk pregnant women that is allied with Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center

Moms2B hosts weekly meetings, educating soon-to-be mothers on topics from breastfeeding to money management while also providing them with healthy snacks and meals, McGhee said.

McGhee encouraged pregnant women and new mothers to reach out to the organization for support. “You just have to go,” she said. “Just show up and see if you like it.”

Maggie Prosser is a fellow with the E.W. Scripps Statehouse News Bureau.
 
 
Randy Ludlow & Maggie Prosser, The Columbus Dispatch, January 16, 2019
DeWine wants to triple home visits for at-risk young families