Program to help Lincoln moms & babies included in $243 million proposed budget

LINCOLN, Neb. (KLKN) — Mayor Leirion Gaylor Baird’s proposed $243 million budget includes home visiting, which supports new parents.

Supporters say there are several benefits that will ultimately make our community that much stronger, including prevention of child abuse and neglect.

“I think it’s very important not just for the well-being of those mothers and children, but for our community as a whole,” Pediatrics Specialist Dr. Stacie Bleicher said. “Especially when, at least statewide in Nebraska, about 50 percent of our pregnancies are Medicaid financed, which by itself suggests we have some financial stress on many of these young families.”

Local nonprofit First Five Nebraska has come out in support of the plan, saying “healthy moms and babies are critical to ensuring the long-term success of children and families in our state.”

The group, that’s focused on advancing early childhood care and learning opportunities, adds the mayor’s proposal guarantees every infant born in Lincoln has the support they need from birth. The new home visit model comes from Lincoln Lancaster Health Department focuses on medically supporting families with a new baby.

“Before they’re discharged from the hospital with a newborn, that hospital can offer them the opportunity to receive three to four home visits after the birth of their child,” First Five Nebraska Policy Advisor Sara Howard said. “What’s neat about what Lincoln Lancaster County is offering is that it would be every baby and every family would be offered this service. Not everybody has to take it, it’s completely voluntary and optional.”

There are 26 different home models across the country.

Four models are used across Nebraska.

However, this new model will specifically be about medical care for newborns. In Lincoln, about eight registered nurses will be fulfilling home visits according to First Five Nebraska.

“Bringing a baby home is something that is overwhelming,” Howard said. “It can create a really vulnerable time for a family but having the opportunity to know that a registered nurse will be visiting you three to four times to offer support to you and your family makes a difference.”

Participation in these programs has proven to be effective at reducing calls to child protective services.

Kids who’ve participated in home visiting also do better in school, particularly in math and reading.

Howard attended a recent city council meeting and said, “it used to be in the ’70s that our public health departments were doing home visits for every baby, and then there were budget cuts, and by the ’80s they weren’t doing them anymore. So this is not something that’s new for your county, it’s vintage, we’re bringing it back.”

Studies also show home visiting more than pays for itself, according to the nonprofit think tank RAND.

Every dollar invested can save over five dollars in the cost of raising kids.

In 2020, there were over 3700 births in Lancaster County, with over 1000 of those births to single mothers, First Five Nebraska said. This model could provide support in the future to those families when they are most in need.

First Five Nebraska says home visiting is highly effective when it comes to identifying cases of postpartum depression as well, and addressing it quickly before it becomes dangerous.

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