By Stan Welch
At Tuesday night’s Anderson County Council meeting, an organization known as the Nurse-Family Partnership of Anderson County made a presentation on their efforts to significantly change and improve the lives of the first time mothers in Anderson County.
The program, in various applications, is both national and international. The various practitioners follow a basic model, which allows for some modifications to suit local conditions. Since its founding in 2009, the Duke Endowment has borne much of the cost for the program, but a combination of both public and private funding sources have taken up the challenge as the program has proved its worth.
The services, which cover the mother and child from prenatal times until the child turns two years old, are absolutely free to the mother, without regard to age or race.
The youngest client served by NFP Anderson is twelve; the oldest was forty two. The federal government provides grant funds based on evidence of results, while the Anderson unit has recently begun billing medicaid for some services.
Mari Birchmore, a Bachelor’s Prepared Nurse, or RN, spoke to the Council,and shared some remarkable statistics. Among some direct benefits to the child whose mother is in the program are increased birth weight, longer term of pregnancy, and a reduction of parental smoking by fifteen per cent. All these are significant factors in improved health of the child.
But post natal assistance is just as important. Children in the program are much more likely to receive their inoculations in a timely manner, and mothers are also instructed in providing a safer home atmosphere as well.
Of the mothers 18 and older, sixty eight per cent are working by the child’s first birthday, which increase to seventy two per cent by the second birthday. Among mothers under 17, those percentages are forty eight and fifty one per cent respectively. Thirty five per cent of the mothers without a high school diploma or GED remain in school at least until the child’s first birthday, and more than thirty per cent of those with a diploma or GED go on to college or a tech school.
As Birchmore spoke, Natalie Mullinax stood by, waiting to tell her story. Natalie was raped at age 14, and in her own words, “lost all hope. I had no idea what came next for me, and no idea of where to turn.”
Her high school nurse told Natalie and her family about NFP Anderson, and Mari became her case worker. Today, Natalie is on track to graduate a year early, and her two year old daughter Charlee stole the show Tuesday night.
Birchmore said there are five nurses currently serving Anderson County, handling approximately 24 cases each. Despite their existing nursing credentials, they undergo additional training specific to the NFP model.
In response to Councilman Francis Crowders’ question, Birchmore said that getting referrals is the biggest problem.
“High school nurses are wonderful. We have a great rapport with them, and often, they are the first ones that teenage girls confide in,” she said. “But private ob/gyn practices, for whatever reason, do nor give us referrals. There are many more families that could be helped by this program if we could only reach them.”
For more information on the program, call 864-716-3860, 866-864-5226, or go to www.nursefamilypartnership.org
In other business. The Council gave third reading approval to a fee in lieu of taxes (FILOT) agreement between the county and Milliken for Project X3, which was revealed, as required by law prior to third reading. The agreement is contingent on a capital investment of at least $2.5 million for new equipment.
While few if any new jobs will be created, five hundred ninety existing jobs will be preserved, as the corporation is clearly making a significant commitment to remaining in the area.