Connections celebrates 25 years
Beth Rumsey, Staff Writer
December marks Family Connections 25th anniversary of service
to Ripley and surrounding counties. Through programs such as Start
Healthy, Healthy Families, Prenatal Substance Use Prevention Program
(PSUPP), and free pregnancy tests, Family Connections has been
able to provide resources and support to help families maintain
healthy environments for their children.
Family Connections began in 1983, then known as the Ripley County
Health Coalition, through a grant from the Indiana State Department
of Health (ISDH). This provided prenatal care for uninsured pregnant
women. Connie DeBurger, executive director, stated, One
of the main goals of prenatal care is to reduce preterm deliveries
and low birth weight.
In 1985, the Health Coalition opened a well-child clinic twice
a month; expanding to three times a month. The clinic closed in
1998, due to the expansion of eligibility to Medicaid through
Hoosier Healthwise. Over 2800 children were assisted by the clinic
during its years of service.
The Start Healthy program began in 1994 to provide education and
support for families in Ripley County. According to Saralee Cumberworth,
program manager for Start Healthy, Family Support Specialists
visit clients once a month in the home to provide information
on prenatal care; to ensure there is a doctor for their child
and themselves; provide information on immunizations and make
sure they are up to date; and ensure the child has a dentist.
A Family Support Specialist also provides nutritional guidance
and information about pregnancy, labor, delivery, and early parenting.
Healthy Families, a parent support group program for families
with newborns, was implemented in 1996. A grant from FSSA and
Childrens Trust Fund allowed expansion of Healthy Families
to six counties: Dearborn, Franklin, Jennings, Ohio, Ripley, and
Switzerland. Families face multiple stressors such as low
paying jobs, unemployment, child care costs, or inadequate housing.
Parenting is a tough job. We help to deal with the stress so the
parents can focus on their families, noted DeBurger. The
Healthy Families program relieves the stress of having a new baby
and coping with other situations at the same time.
The most recent program, started in 2002, is the Prenatal Substance
Use Prevention Program, which provides assistance to at-risk pregnant
women due to substance abuse, including tobacco. PSUPP is funded
by the Maternal Child Health division of the ISDH. According to
Program Manager Saralee Cumberworth, PSUPP is the only home-based
substance abuse support program. If we go to them and make
it more personal, they are more likely to quit, she said.
In fact, 95% of those enrolled in PSUPP either reduced the use
of tobacco or quit. Currently, two nurses serve a six county area
visiting clients in their homes each trimester, with phone calls
every month to give encouragement and support. One can call 1-800-QUITNOW
to get started with this program.
Family Support Specialists (FSS) work with families to develop
goals that impact the childrens health. Going into the home
allows the FSS to recognize other factors that affect the families
and to help the families to manage the resources they have to
help them get what they need. We are fulfilling a need that
used to be provided by the family or the church several years
ago, said DeBurger. Who else is going to do that?
By providing information and education, a FSS can promote healthy
eating and exercise to prevent childhood obesity and assist families
locating community resources.
Free pregnancy tests are also provided to those who need them.
Included with the test are prenatal vitamins, literature about
various pregnancy topics required by the State of Indiana and
a consultation with a registered nurse.
Family Connections is located at 202 Gaslight Drive, Versailles.
Those in need can access the services offered by calling 812-689-6363.
Those outside of Ripley County can call 1-888-689-6363. I
have a great staff, concluded DeBurger, they are very
committed to see families get the help they need.
Pictured from left are: Connie DeBurger, executive director
of Family Connections; Tom Gray, resource coordinator;
and Saralee Cumberworth, program manager for Start Healthy
and Prenatal Substance Use Prevention Program (PSUPP).
They are pictured in front of plaques with names of financial
supporters of the program