The Tacoma-Pierce County Health Department and Board of Health are faced with a loss of revenue from federal Title XIX administrative match funds, a loss that affects services to vulnerable families in our community.
One of the programs affected is the Nurse-Family Partnership (NFP). This program has the potential to transform generations of children and families by improving birth outcomes for first-time mothers and their children. The program also has long-term effects, including reduced crime and substance abuse.
A 2013 study, “Societal Return on Investment in NFP Services,” demonstrated that for youth served by the NFP, there was a 53 percent reduction in youth substance abuse (alcohol, tobacco, and marijuana) and 46 percent reduction in youth crimes and arrests. For this reason alone, the program merits retention.
Tacoma and Pierce County have an opportunity to be a national leader by embracing a program that can save money long term and improve the community’s health, beyond just maternal and child health. Supporting the NFP now can reduce future expenditures for Child Protective Services, criminal justice, special education and safety net spending such as TANF.
Research shows that the NFP is a worthwhile public health program with significant returns on investments for taxpayers and the families served. I urge local officials to retain current funding levels for the program.
Help from state and federal officials to improve or reverse the funding formula changes set by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services that have caused these proposed cuts is needed, too.
(Primomo is an associate professor of nursing at the University of Washington Tacoma.)