House spares Children First home-visitation program
BY World's Editorials Writers
Saturday, March 02, 2013
3/02/13 at 7:00 AM
In a surprise turnaround, the Oklahoma House leadership has shelved, at least for the year, an effort to kill a program in which public health nurses visit the homes of poor, first-time mothers.
Rep. Jason Nelson, R-Oklahoma City, chairman of the House Appropriations Committee human services subcommittee, said that Rep. Mark McCullough, R-Sapulpa , had agreed not to push his bill to eliminate the Children First program, return federal Affordable Care Act funding for it to the federal government and suspend three smaller home-visitation programs until they can be audited.
Instead, Speaker T.W. Shannon, R-Lawton, said he will appoint a bipartisan working group, led by Nelson, to study the state's home-visitation programs. Nelson said the working group won't have legislation ready to consider this session.
Reasons for the change of heart were unclear. The low-income families who benefit from the program - there were more than 3,500 of them last year aren't in a position to hire a lobbyist, Perhaps there was a limited outbreak of good sense in the House, although the current crop of representatives are not known to act out of the kindness of their hearts.
Whatever the reason, it is good that Children First has been spared for at least a year. In terms of evidence-based results it is a good program.
Last year state Health Department nurses made 33,460 regularly scheduled visits to the homes of first-time pregnant women, starting before their 29th week of pregnancy and continuing until the child turns 2. The department says Children First clients are more likely than the general population to receive prenatal care, breast feed their children and have immunized for childhood diseases.
McCullough, however, claims that the number of Children First clients has drastically declined in recent years and the positive results of the program are marginal.
We suspect that the tip-off to his opposition was in an earlier press release, in which he complained that the program was funded through an "Obamacare" grant.
It is the semi-official policy of the state of Oklahoma to despise all things Obama. Thankfully, the beneficiaries of Children First - better prepared moms and healthier kids - won't be hurt by that asinine stance, for now.
Original Print Headline: Reprieve