By Lois E Johnson
Moose Lake Star-Gazette 

Four-county health board awarded $2.1 mil grant


August 30, 2018

Lois E. Johnson

Commissioner Jan Malcolm of the Minnesota Department of Health

Commissioner Jan Malcolm of the Minnesota Department of Health visited Cloquet on Friday, Aug. 24, to announce that the Carlton-Cook-Lake-St. Louis Community Health Board was recently awarded a $2.1 million grant to expand the Healthy Families America home visiting program.

"Strong evidence shows that home visiting helps pregnant and parenting families be successful," she told the group at the press conference. "I've had a chance to meet those families and hear about the benefits of the program from first-time moms. What a benefit it has been to them."

According to a press release, family home visiting programs serve at-risk families, such as first-time moms and families facing challenges, like mental illness, domestic abuse or substance abuse. Through home visiting programs, a nurse or other trained professional provides practical health and parenting support for parents and pregnant women during ongoing home visits until the child is two to three years old.

"The moms talked about the thrust of information out there," said Malcolm. "Even though they were able to search out information, we are there to reassure them and to guide them. They may need resources now and in the future. It's about prevention, to prevent bad things from happening."

Malcolm spoke about the economic value of the program.

"For every dollar spent, it saves in the range of $3 to $6," she said. "That pays off in huge dividends, such as health benefits and longer-term outcomes in school. It's not just in health but it is in other domains as well.

"We can do more for these kids. This is critical in the early months."

Veronica Tempes, Program Manager, explained that the benefits of the program is being seen since it began some time ago. The grant funds will be used to add one staff person in each of the counties.

"We are developing family groups were the families come together and share information," she said. "We want them to be the best parents that they can be. We help parents develop their own potential. We have become part of their lives and have watched them reach their goals. It has been an honor."

Carlton County Commissioner Marv Bode explained that each county has its own staff but the counties work together to get things done.

"That's another example of moving in the right direction without having to worry about the money," he said.

Senator Tony Lourey spoke about his efforts to champion such programs in the Legislature.

"We are trying to invest upstream in prevention," he said. "We are taking a leap of faith; the dividends pay back over time. The biggest investment that we can make is in the kids. It is more than spending a dollar to save $3 to $6, these kids are going to be our leaders."

Senator Lourey also spoke highly about the four-county community health board.

"You are a tremendous model," he said. "You help show what this support really means. You start the program with the pregnant mothers to make sure that they do not smoke or drink, and that they eat healthy. If the kids get started off in a good positive direction, they can be successful."

In an interview after the press conference ended, Carlton County Commissioner Gary Peterson told of his own daughter that often consults with her mother, his wife, about concerns with her child.

"One of her concerns was SIDS (Sudden Infant Death Syndrome)," he said. "She used a Finnish box (a padded cardboard box that act as bassinets to create a safe sleeping environment) when her child was small.

"Another concern was vaccinations. There is so much information out there but a lot of it comes from bad research. It is better to spend money on this program; it is an investment in our young people. If parents can have one good adult mentor in their lives - someone that they can connect with - that's just what they need."


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