It Starts With Prevention
January 12, 2023
This blog post is authored by Veronda L. Durden, President and CEO of Any Baby Can.
Just as a loose foundation can make a house unstable, when systems that protect families aren’t in place, people and communities may have trouble weathering what gets thrown at them. Any Baby Can helps families deal with these difficult situations. But we also believe in fixing the foundation so that everyone starts off with a more stable base.
That’s why we’re committed to using our expertise, our voice and our platform to advocate for changes that happen at the state-wide and national level. If you support family rights and children’s safety, then you know there are important things on the line for families this upcoming legislative session.
Prevention is Key!
Over the last couple years, we’ve noticed that parents are facing more stress, children are experiencing more developmental delays and health concerns, and families are encountering more financial instability. And all with less support. The biggest issues we’re watching at the state and national level are around early intervention, maternal health and mental health, which directly impact our ability to work towards our mission.
Over the past 3 years, an increasing amount of children are needing speech therapy, physical therapy, or other support with their development. We’re seeing an increasing demand for services, while the funding for Early Childhood Intervention (ECI) is not in line with the growing need.
As a result, Any Baby Can, like other ECI providers, has experienced high caseload growth, which is causing a strain on providers across the state, and especially here in Central Texas.
The federal ECI program is an entitlement program; that means if a child meets the eligibility requirement, we must provide services. Which is good – we can’t stop serving these children at such an important point in their lives. However, there is no law at the state level that says that the Texas ECI programs will be reimbursed for all services provided. There’s a gap in funding and it’s growing!
In 2022 we served more children eligible for ECI than we were contracted to serve, and we weren’t reimbursed for all the services we provided. We’re asking for increased ECI funding, and also for an updated and more realistic funding model in order to ensure that the funding is commensurate with the services provided.
We know that the earlier we intervene, the better off the child is. We see the largest return on investment from prevention services. Not just for the child’s growth and development, but for our society. Children who have disabilities, special health care diagnoses, or developmental delays are more at risk for abuse and neglect. They need more accommodations in school and have parents who are less able to contribute to the workforce. But when we work with parents to understand and address concerns, we turn that around!
Mental Health Crisis
Lets face it, things are stressful right now… The pandemic, rising prices, violence in our communities and schools, and financial stress have affected the emotional well-being of all of us! We’re in the middle of collective trauma, especially parents of young or school-aged kids.
We’re seeing more clients seek counseling, and referrals to our No Estás Solo (NES) therapy services are going up. Moms are driving an hour to attend our support groups – the need is huge! Many people are coming in with more complex mental health needs or are first-time mental health consumers—meaning they’ve never been in therapy before. This requires more sessions to achieve their mental health goals. The average time that our clients spend in our therapy program has gone up by 34% in just two years. We’re fortunate to have a fantastic group of therapists, but they’re being stretched by the increased workload and retention has been a challenge.
We’re advocating for aid in addressing workforce shortages and funding for preventative mental health screenings and interventions.
Our Nurse-Family Partnership and Healthy and Fair Start programs use evidence-based prevention models that screen for early signs of depression and anxiety. This is one reason they’re able to make early referrals, and also why the families follow through with therapy.
From a prevention perspective, we are addressing these stressors early before they can lead to bigger issues. Once again, prevention works!
Moms are worried about how to provide for their baby, especially if the baby is born with special needs or the parents aren’t in the most ideal place for raising a kid. More babies in Texas are being born with greater needs, and that’s only going to increase. Programs like Nurse-Family Partnership play a role in empowering women—many of whom fall significantly below the poverty level—during their transition to parenthood. The challenges of growing a family with that kind of stress affects both parent and child.
For Nurse-Family Partnership, studies have shown that every $1 invested into the program saves up to $5.70 in future costs for families served.
During the last legislative session, we successfully expanded Medicaid coverage to six months after a baby is born. But that’s not enough. Preeclampsia, for example, can happen up to a year after a baby is born. So why are moms only covered for six months?
More than half of pregnancy-related deaths occur after delivery, with 11.7% happening from 43 to 365 days postpartum.1 Not having insurance impacts access to care and as a result can increase maternal mortality and morbidity.
We’re asking for Medicaid coverage for new moms to expand to 12 months. This can reduce coverage disparities for Black and Hispanic new mothers.
This is a Partnership
We can’t do it by ourselves. For our community to truly prioritize families, it will require individuals, nonprofits, health care systems and many other players to work together. It’s an interdependent relationship and we need to treat it as such.
Families deserve better and our community deserves better. So we will continue to speak up for these needs as our government makes decisions that affect all of us.
We’re working with individual and advocacy partners to promote these life-saving resources and funding. In particular, TexProtects, Texans Care for Children, Children at Risk, Parents as Teachers, Prenatal to Three (PN3) Coalition, and Nurse-Family Partnership have been critical to moving these agendas forward. Without advocacy, planning, prevention, and direct services, we fall into a trap of reacting to urgent needs.
As we connect with stakeholders in communities around Texas, provide community guidance to elected officials, and propose recommendations to the legislature, together we’ll strengthen families and keep children safe and thriving.
- Petersen et al., “Vital Signs,” 2019; and Kristin P. Tully, Alison M. Stuebe, and Sarah B. Verbiest, “The Fourth Trimester: A Critical Transition Period with Unmet Maternal Health Needs,” American Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology217, no. 1 (July 2017): 37–41.
Support parents and kid across Central Texas by volunteering, donating, attending our events, and much more.
Need for Social Support
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Mental Health at Every Visit
Mental health issues are compounded by poverty, racism, lack of access to healthcare, and other systemic obstacles.