Health Department seeks community input on programs

In his March 26 Viewpoint, “Nurse-Family Partnership program saves young lives,” Lakewood Police Chief Bret Farrar offered his resounding support of the evidence-based intervention work of the Tacoma-Pierce County Health Depart-ment’s Nurse Family Partnership (NFP) program.

We agree with the points in Farrar’s piece, and we are proud of our efforts to strengthen the families, the health and the community here in Pierce County. The NFP program is just one of the efforts offered through our network of 12 Family Support Centers. It pairs home-visiting nurses with young mothers who do not have strong support for a healthy start in motherhood and child rearing.

The Health Department has advocated for and supported this program in the community for the past six years, demonstrating its commitment to this and other evidence-based public health interventions.

Among many success stories to come from the Family Support Center program is the 134 young mothers who graduated from the NFP intervention. That’s 134 women who got a healthier start on their new journey as young mothers.

The community has benefited from these important programs because the department has championed these efforts—and found revenue to financially support them.

Public health funding is under fire from many funding sources at the federal, state and local level. Some of the programs the department has already eliminated include injury prevention; domestic violence prevention; and breast, cervical and colon health promotion.

The $1.6 million reduction we are facing in Title XIX Medicaid Administrative Match, the main funding source for the Family Support Centers and Nurse-Family Partnership program, is only the most recent bad news. We are also anticipating further federal cuts from the sequester.

When it comes to cuts, there are no easy choices left. If the Health Department doesn’t reduce the budget of this program, cuts to other program areas would impact essential functions such as ensuring safe drinking water, following up on illegal dumping complaints, preventing tobacco use among youth, providing adequate disease investigation, offering free vaccines for low-income children and adults, and other activities that protect the public’s health.

We are part of and we care about this community. We want to offer public-health programs to people who need them the most. But we are challenged to continue these efforts in our current budget climate. Finding continued financial support for these community investment and intervention efforts is the challenge we now face.

We are looking for ideas and help with funding solutions. We have received many calls and emails expressing support for our programs that strengthen families. We appreciate the feedback from the community.

We want to work with our community partners to ensure that Pierce County residents continue to access these important intervention services. What resources can we leverage, as a community, to help us save these important programs?

We welcome your ideas and hope to hear from you at Director@TPCHD.org.

Anthony L-T Chen, M.D., is director of health with the Tacoma-Pierce County Health Department.