Nurses and social workers will visit more homes across Rhode Island thanks to a two-year, $10 million dollar federal grant aimed at helping pregnant women and young children. The program could soon be serving more than a thousand Rhode Island families.
Congress established this home visiting program a few years ago to help families reduce the risks of pre-term births, low birth weights, and infant mortality. This round of funding marks a big expansion of the program in Rhode Island, said State Health Department Director Doctor Michael Fine.
“The grant will fund an additional five hundred more slots," said Fine, "and also fund mental health consultation for a hundred families.”
Fine said families are referred to the program or enroll themselves. Family visitors provide prenatal care, information about free resources like housing or heating assistance, and give parents tools to improve their babies’ development. The program employs social workers, nurses, and other community health workers who have undergone cultural sensitivity training and often speak more than one language.
Fine emphasized the program has shown results.
“We know it is associated with lower rates of pre-term birth, lower rates of child maltreatment, lower rates of substance abuse," he said, "and higher rates of breast feeding, of prenatal and well-baby care, higher rates of infant immunization," and more, said Fine.