Supporting Connecticut to Launch a Postpartum Public Health Program

Annie Dear, Danielle Charpentier, Natalie Larkin November 16, 2022

Like many states, Connecticut seeks to support families and recover from Covid-19. While having and raising a baby is a rewarding experience, Covid-19 exacerbated many of the challenges families already face during the postpartum period. In fact, recent research shows that Covid-19 worsened mental health concerns for new parents; for instance, depression and anxiety rates have more than doubled. Although widespread, these and other maternal health issues disproportionately impact women of color. According to the CDC, Black and Indigenous American women are two to three times more likely to die from a pregnancy-related cause than white women.

To address these challenges, the Connecticut Office of Early Childhood (CT OEC), along with the Office of Health Strategy, the Department of Social Services, the Department of Children and Families, and the Department of Public Health, is launching a two-year universal home visiting and community health worker pilot to offer preventative public health services to families in the Greater Bridgeport area. Supported by several federal funding streams, including the American Rescue Plan Act, this pilot will address health disparities, provide critical supports to Connecticut families, and mitigate the impacts of Covid-19. The pilot will also address the community’s need for short-term, lighter-touch parenting supports that are available to families regardless of need. With a combined $4.5M in funding, Bridgeport Hospital and Southwestern Area Health Education Centers will begin planning for service implementation starting in Winter 2022.

Supported by several federal funding streams, including the American Rescue Plan Act, this pilot will address health disparities, provide critical supports to Connecticut families, and mitigate the impacts of Covid-19.

The pilot will use the Family Connects universal home visiting model, through which all participating families will receive between one and three postpartum visits from a registered nurse and connections to community resources after the births of their babies. Universal home visiting offers services to all families within a defined geographic area; in Connecticut’s pilot, all families who reside in the Greater Bridgeport region and deliver at one of two regional birthing hospitals will be eligible for services. By offering a touchpoint to all families, universal home visiting aims to improve health outcomes at a population level. Evidence indicates that this approach works: Family Connects decreases emergency medical health care usage by 50%, results in 44% lower rates of child welfare engagement, and reduces the likelihood of mothers experiencing depression or anxiety by 30%. The pilot will also train and certify community health workers, thereby strengthening a critical workforce in Connecticut. Families with further needs after completing the universal home visiting program can access a community health worker who is uniquely positioned to offer longer-term services. Community health workers will connect families to resources and liaise between medical, social, and other community services.

Social Finance collaborated with CT OEC and partnering agencies to design the pilot, secure funding, and plan for implementation. We reviewed evidence on the Family Connects model, engaged early childhood community partners, and developed a proposal that illustrated the need for universally offered home visiting services. After funding was approved, we supported procurement, developed a budget, and offered strategic guidance regarding implementation and evaluation of the initiative. We were eager to support the expansion of effective, prevention-focused services, as the pilot’s cross-agency approach to governance, focus on prevention, and commitment to tracking outcomes through evaluation and performance management reflect our core Pay for Success principles.

Social Finance looks forward to partnering with CT OEC to plan for expansion into additional communities and to integrate the pilot into Connecticut’s network of family-centered programs. The pilot demonstrates Connecticut’s commitment to providing all families with early childhood supports and is necessary to improve communities’ recovery from Covid-19. Continued investments of this type will strengthen this nation’s public health infrastructure and ensure that families receive the support they need.

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