Would Expand Prenatal and Infant Support to Additional Families
TRENTON – Legislation sponsored Senate Education Chair M. Teresa Ruiz and Senate Health Chairman Joseph Vitale to expand the state’s home visitation program that provides support to new mothers was approved today by the Assembly, sending it to the governor’s desk.
“We know that providing support to new mothers as early as during pregnancy and through infancy is critical to a child’s development,” said Senator Ruiz (D-Essex). “This program is already benefiting families by giving them the educational resources they need and linking them to health services. Expanding it will allow us to reach more parents and lead to improved outcomes for more children in the state.”
The bill (S1475) will create a three-year Medicaid home visitation demonstration project to provide ongoing health and parenting information, parent and family support, and links to essential health and social services during pregnancy, infancy, and early childhood. The pilot program would be modeled on home visitation programs currently administered by the state, which provide services to over 5,000 families across New Jersey; if expanded, it would reach an additional 550 families.
“Giving new parents the tools they need to provide proper care and nutrition to their children is vital, especially since we know that prenatal care and the care a child receives early in life has a substantial impact on health and cognitive development,” said Senator Vitale (D-Middlesex). “This program will benefit children but also provide meaningful savings to the state over the long-term.”
According to research by the Pacific Institute of Evaluation and Research, home visitation provides a predicted $15,770 per family cost savings for federal, state, and local governments. Savings come from reductions in smoking, pregnancy-induced hypertension, fewer pre-term births, reduction in infant deaths, reduction in second teen births and increased time between births. The cost savings also includes reductions in child injuries and maltreatment, and reductions in language delays, crime and arrests, and drug and alcohol in later years.
The project would be implemented in stages, prioritizing expansion of services in counties with the highest number of births to eligible families and where current home visitation programs provide services to less than 10 percent of the eligible population. The bill would require the Department of Human Services to apply for State plan amendments or waivers to implement this project and secure federal financial participation for State Medicaid expenditures. It would be subject to federal approval and availability of federal financial participation.
South Carolina, New York, and Colorado all use Medicaid to help fund their home visitation programs.
The Senate approved the bill by a vote of 39-1. The Assembly approved it x-x.