News

County creates program to help at-risk mothers

By CHARLIE BERMANT

Kitsap County Writer

A Kitsap County program that pairs at-risk mothers with a public heath nurse for their pregnancy and the first two years of the child’s life is scheduled to begin this year.

“This program fills a definite need,” said Bremerton physician Brian Nyland, who is spearheading the program. “There are many eventual benefits that save money and strengthen families in the long run.”

Nyland belongs to a group called Healthy Start Kitsap, which is working with the Denver-based Nurse Family Partnership in developing the local program. Healthy Start Kitsap is involved in fundraising and organization, and needs around $600,000 a year for operation.

Nyland expects to reach that goal in the next few months and begin seeing patients this summer.

Participating nurses are required to complete a training program in Denver.

While Healthy Start raises the funds and organizes the effort, the Kitsap County Health District will staff and administer the programs.

Community Health Director Suzanne Plemmons said her department will supervise three-and-a-half nursing positions that will service 85 families at one time.

The nurses will first visit the mother-to-be during her second trimester and continue scheduled visits until the child is 2 years old.

According to the Nurse Family Partnership, the program has several proven long-term benefits. Nurse-visited women had longer intervals between births of first and second children, fewer cumulative subsequent births per year and longer relationships with current partners.

From birth through children age 9, nurse-visited women used welfare and food stamps for fewer months.

Nurse-visited children born to mothers with low psychological resources, compared with control-group counterparts, had better grade point averages and achievement test scores in math and reading in grades 1 through 3. They also are less likely to die before turning nine, due to the ability to head off potentially preventable causes.

Nyland said the program is almost entirely grant funded, although some direct support originates from the Kitsap Health District.

Plemmons said that families can leave the program at any time, but it works best if the course is completed.

After the child is 2 years old, the family can transition to other social programs.

For more information about the program call (360) 337-5263 or (360) 337-4822.

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