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Tennessee Cuts Budget for Maternal Infant Health Program

June 12, 2009

See Aunt B at Pith in the Wind. I’m on the board of an organization whose programs include MIHOW, the Maternal Infant Health Outreach Worker program, through which low-cost, parent-to-parent interventions that improve health and child development for low-income families are delivered. Trained community women reach out to pregnant women with pre- and post-natal pregnancy, birth, and childcare information, and provide general support for healthy pregnancies and parenting. Preliminary evaluation data suggests that positive outcomes of the program include more and earlier prenatal care, lower rates of low birth weight, children being on schedule for well child visits, and obtainment of health insurance.

In proposed Tennessee budget, according to an email I received “The state budget cuts being put in place will have severe consequences across the state, and to the CHS as well. The funding we recently received from the Governor’s Office of Children’s Care Coordination for two MIHOW sites is proposed to be completely eliminated. This would be effective 7/1 if the budget passes.”

MIHOW isn’t the only health-related or social support program on the chopping block. Other details, from the Tennessee Commission on Children and Youth:

Some of the programs moved to “contingency funding” include:
-Healthy Start ($3,000,060)
-Family Resource Center Grants ($3,463,200)
-Governor’s Office of Children’s Care Coordination (GOCCC) ($866,600)
-Department of Health (DOH) Shaken Baby Syndrome ($30,600)
-DOH Contracts with Urban Health Departments ($1,460,600)
-DOH Minority Health Initiative Grants ($860,100)
-DOH Diabetes Awareness and Prevention ($6,400,000)
-DOH Poison Control Center at Vanderbilt ($375,000)
-TennCare program in Memphis City Schools ($250,000)
-TennCare Perinatal Grants ($2,272,800)
-Public Television ($2,786,800)
-Internet Connectivity ($2,000,063)

Additionally, the following expenditure items were eliminated:
-GOCCC Women’s Health Study ($3,000,000)
-GOCCC Infant Mortality ($1,443,100)
-Coalition on Domestic Violence ($50,000)
-Administrative Office of the Courts (AOC) Court of the Judiciary ($205,000)
-AOC Indigent Defense ($1,000,000)
-DHS Child Care for Individuals at Risk of Becoming TANF Eligible ($3,257,400, half of what had been moved from recurring to non-recurring in the Administration budget)

That organization makes the following suggestion for action (in an email from yesterday, so some details may have changed):

The Senate may vote on this budget as early as tonight. The House will not take up the budget until next week.

Calls to House members are critical to encourage them not to accept the Senate provisions regarding “contingency funding” as these programs should receive non-recurring funding regardless of how the state closes the books June 30, and ask them to not accept the expenditure eliminations added. House members also need to be asked to add $4.9 million for Coordinated School Health and the remaining $6,331,300 in mental health funding not included in the Senate Republican Budget.

After the House acts next week, hopefully restoring funding, calls will be needed to Senate members to encourage them to adopt the House budget.

The message to members should focus on the importance of maintaining the public-private and state-local partnerships providing essential “infrastructure” services for children and family – basic public supports developed in our child welfare, education, health, human services juvenile justice and mental health systems. Many of these services are interrelated, so weakening public structure resources in one system erodes the strength of the foundation in all systems.

Tell legislators it is “raining” in Tennessee, and they should use rainy day and other reserve funds as necessary to maintain these services.

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