Agency Budget Oversight Hearing, Fiscal Year 2019, Department of Health, Home Visiting

Testimony of Ruqiyyah Abu-Anbar, Early Childhood Policy Fellow

DC Action for Children

 

Agency Budget Oversight Hearing

Fiscal Year 2019

Department of Health

 

Before the Committee on Health

Council of the District of Columbia

 

April 9, 2018

 

Good afternoon, Councilmember Gray and members of the Committee on Health. Thank you for the opportunity to address the Council as it reviews the proposed Fiscal Year 2019 budget for the Department of Health (DC Health). My name is Ruqiyyah Abu-Anbar, and I am the Early Childhood Policy Fellow at DC Action for Children (DC Action).

DC Action provides data analysis and policy leadership on critical issues facing DC children and youth. We envision a District of Columbia where all children, regardless of their race/ethnicity, family’s income or zip code, have the opportunity to reach their full potential. We are also the home of DC KIDS COUNT, an online resource that tracks key indicators of child well-being in the District.

DC Action for Children also serves on the Home Visiting Council with other advocates, community-based providers and agency leaders. This council works to strengthen home visiting in the District by building a cross-sector network of support for programs, advocating for resources and funding for their stability and growth and collaborating to address system-wide challenges to the implementation of home visiting services. We are grateful for the partnership of the Department of Health’s staff on the Home Visiting Council and their commitment to promoting maternal, child and family health through evidence-based home visiting services.

My testimony today will focus on DC Health’s efforts to support young children and their families through early childhood home visiting.

Home visiting is a family support that acts as a connector between the early childhood and health systems in the District. These programs teach parenting skills, identify developmental delays in young children, help families find the appropriate interventions and supports for their children’s needs, promote improved health care utilization, help families navigate complex systems such as the education and health care systems, and provide parents with emotional support during critical transitions such as pregnancy and their children’s earliest years. As DC Health works to improve perinatal health and birth outcomes in the city, these programs should continue to be a key component of the District’s maternal and child health system of care.

DC Action – alongside 15 other partners who signed on to a letter of support for home visiting – request a recurring local investment of $2 million, to be spent exclusively on home visiting programs and supports for these programs. A recurring local investment in these programs is critical for the following reasons:

  1. Families want and benefit from home visiting services. DC programs with public and private funding report that they are well-enrolled. DC Health’s oversight responses support this: in FY 2017, both federally-funded DC Health programs exceeded federal requirements for enrollment for most of the year. Additionally, the smaller, locally-funded program was nearly or fully enrolled based on the number of home visitors on staff for all but one quarter.[1] Later today, you’ll hear from families enrolled in home visiting about their experiences with home visiting and how these programs have made a difference for them.
  2. Stable, recurring funding would support long-term planning. In recent years, following agreements between the Office of the State Superintendent for Education (OSSE), the Child and Family Services Agency (CFSA), and the Department of Health to centralize home visiting at DC Health, OSSE ceased funding home visiting and CFSA reduced its investment. However, in the same period, DC Health narrowed the scope of the programs it administers, in part as a result of a loss of federal funding. A recurring and reliable local investment will enable DC Health to develop long-term strategies for improving programs and increasing their reach. As the lead agency on home visiting in the District, DC Health’s role in driving this work is key and the Home Visiting Council is available to support these efforts.
  3. Locally-funded home visiting remains a gap in DC. In other states, federal funding is often supplemented by state, local, and private funding to support home visiting. In DC, the majority of funding for these programs comes from federal or private dollars. In recent years, the District has allocated $2 million per year for home visiting; however, these funds have not been used solely to support home visiting programs in the District. We support DC Health’s implementation of innovative approaches to addressing perinatal health; however, we hope that the DC Council will ensure that home visiting receives local funding of $2 million exclusively for home visiting.

The Home Visiting Council is available to support DC Health in efforts to strengthen the programs they administer, as well as the District’s strategy for supporting families through home visiting. Currently, the HV Council is supporting DC Health’s Help Me Grow (HMG), so that HMG care coordinators can provide information on and referrals to appropriate home visiting programs for families who want and could benefit from these services. The HV Council is currently staffed, is structured and organized, and is capable of supporting DC Health’s ability to improve home visiting in the District. We look forward to a continued partnership with DC Health.

Overall, we feel that DOH's FY19 budget reflects a commitment addressing the roots of health disparities by targeting attention and resources to the nuanced needs of children and their families and by harnessing innovative approaches to support more families in the District. By deepening investments in home visiting, we believe more children and families can benefit.

Thank you for the opportunity to testify today. I am happy to answer any questions that you may have.

 

 

 

[1] Department of Health 2018 Performance Oversight Responses. Retrieved from http://www.dccouncil.us/files/user_uploads/budget_responses/doh_Part2.pdf

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