The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, or HHS, recently awarded $22.6 million towards home visiting programs in California, the largest such grant received by any state.
The award – part of a $386 million allocation to states, territories and nonprofit organizations – will support the Maternal, Infant, and Early Childhood Home Visiting Program, or MIECHV, established by the Affordable Care Act. These funds will allow states to continue to expand voluntary, evidence-based home visiting services to women during pregnancy and to parents with young children.
“Home visits by a nurse, social worker or early childhood educator during pregnancy and in the first years of life can make a tremendous difference in the lives of many children and their families,” said HHS Secretary Sylvia Burwell. “Today’s awards give states the flexibility to tailor their home visiting programs to address the specific needs of the communities they serve.”
“The federal funds for home visiting programs represent an important contribution toward building a network of quality services in L.A. County.” - Stacy Lee
MIECHV builds upon decades of scientific research, which shows that families that choose home visits by a nurse, social worker or early childhood educator during pregnancy and in the first years of life benefit from important support services for healthy children and families. Home visiting programs have been shown to prevent child abuse and neglect, and promote child health and development.
MIECHV targets counties in the country with high rates of the following indicators: low birth weight, teen birth rate, living in poverty and infant mortality rates. Nearly 80 percent of families participating in the program had household incomes at or below 100 percent of the Federal Poverty Level.
Los Angeles County will likely receive a portion of this funding, although California Department of Public Health officials were unable to say the exact amount at this time. One of the recipients of this funding will be Antelope Valley Partners for Health (AVPH), which is also a grantee of First 5 LA. AVPH’s MIECHV program currently serves 88 families.
AVPH is only one of First 5 LA’s home visiting grantees. Through its Welcome Baby initiative, First 5 LA has committed over $38.5 million in both universal and intensive home visiting programs for fiscal year 2014-15. First 5 LA expects to serve more than 38,000 babies each year by 2016.
“The federal funds for home visiting programs represent an important contribution toward building a network of quality services in L.A. County,” said First 5 LA Policy Manager Stacy Lee. “We will need the partnership of every level of government, hospitals, insurers, education institutions and others to ensure every baby has the opportunity to thrive from the very start. This is why First 5 LA’s new strategic plan emphasizes partnership and advocacy as key components to its overall approach. ”
The $22.6 million California MIECHV award applies to fiscal year 2015 and 2016, so grantees will have until September 30, 2017, to use their funds. Current authority for MIECHV expires on March 31, 2015, after which time Congress must take action for any budget reauthorizations to materialize.