The Daily Item, Sunbury, PA

March 12, 2013

Grant expands nurse-family program into Snyder County

By Evamarie Socha
The Daily Item

— LEWISBURG — Bringing up baby just got a hand, thanks to a $187,000 grant that brings the Nurse-Family Partnership to Union County and expands it to the rest of Snyder County, officials announced Monday in Lewisburg.

This makes six counties and 169 mothers in the Valley covered under the partnership, a maternal child health program that pairs low-income women within 28 weeks of their first pregnancy with a nurse who will guide them on health matters, doctor visits and parenting until the child is 2.

The program also teaches these new mothers to be self-sufficient, helping them get GEDs or finish schooling and become employed.

“We’ve been looking for expansion money for years,” said Jane Gitner, a registered nurse and director of Columbia-Montour Home, Health & Hospice.

The grant brings eight nurses to assist 44 mothers in Union and Snyder counties under the partnership extension. The program already serves Columbia, Luzerne, Montour and Northumberland counties.

The grant came through the Office of Child Development and Early Learning to the Health Resources and Services Administration, part of the Department of Health and Human Services.

Started by Columbia-Montour Home Health Services/Visiting Nurses Association and the Central Susquehanna Community Foundation, the Nurse-Family Partnership began locally in 2001 and has served 910 women since. The average mother is 19 years old, but the group has helped clients as young as 13 and as old as 42.

Ashley Lau, of Snyder County, was one of these women. At 19, she also was raising her younger brother when she became pregnant, she told the nearly 75 people gathered Monday in the Country Cupboard.

In an abusive relationship and without a family-support structure, Lau turned to the partnership for help and was paired with Tionie Bingaman, a registered nurse.

“I didn’t believe in myself,” Lau said, her voice cracking as she held back tears. “Tionie helped me believe.”

Thanks to the partnership, Lau today has a healthy 5-year-old son. She filed for a protection-from-abuse order while pregnant, eventually went to college and now is gainfully employed.

Bingaman called Lau “a remarkable young woman. I am so proud of her.”

There are Nurse-Family Partnership programs in 45 Pennsylvania counties and nationally in 42 states.