Home visiting program expands in Minnesota

The Minnesota Department of Health is expanding a home visit program for at-risk families.

The agency has awarded $4.87 million in grants to expand home visits in 19 counties and two tribal nations, serving about 300 families.

"Home visiting is effective with a return on investment from three dollars to $6 for every dollar spent. It's preventive, it's upstream, it saves lots of money down the road," said Commissioner Ed Ehlinger in announcing the grants.

The family home visiting program allows a nurse to provide health and parenting support to pregnant women and parents. The visits last until the child is between 2 and 3 years old.

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Ehlinger said research has identified several benefits from home visits: "Lower risk pregnancies, fewer moms and kids who need child protection services, and the children are more likely to show up for kindergarten ready to learn.

"It is a needed service. Nearly a quarter of the babies born in Minnesota each year are at high risk of not receiving the support that they need for healthy development," Ehlinger said.

The family home visiting programs serve a variety of at-risk families including first-time mothers, or families facing mental illness, domestic abuse, or substance abuse. Ehlinger said this is the first stage of an initiative to expand the home visit program statewide in two years.

The Legislature and governor approved a funding increase of about $6 million each year in fiscal years 2018 and 2019 and about $16.5 million per year the following two years.