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House panel gets rundown of programs that support young children

There are many state and federally funded initiatives geared toward supporting the health and well-being of Minnesota’s youngest citizens and their families.

The House Early Childhood Finance and Policy Committee heard about a handful of those programs Tuesday, including Medical Assistance, the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, the Minnesota Family Investment Program and the Family Home Visiting Program.

The Medical Assistance program serves nearly 1-in-4 Minnesotans, and covers health care for 44.3% of children, according to Matt Anderson, assistant human services commissioner. Anderson provided an overview of the programs’ services, eligibility requirements, enrollment, funding and other key components.

“Our enrollment, as a total, sits at about 1.3 million people in Minnesota, and that population is split fairly evenly between the seven-county metro area and Greater Minnesota,” he said. “But as a percentage of population, a higher percentage of Minnesotans in Greater Minnesota are on public programs than in the metro area.”

Additionally, Anderson noted that “Because Medical Assistance inherently covers low-income people and because of Minnesota’s long-standing disparities along racial lines with respect to income and other social drivers of health, we see that our population is disproportionally skewed toward BIPOC [Black, Indigenous, people of color] communities in our enrollments.”

Dawn Reckinger, manager of the Family Home Visiting program, operated by the Department of Health, outlined the voluntary services for pregnant women and parenting for families most in need of support. The state partners with existing, third-party, home visit providers. They begin the visits prenatally and continue through approximately age 3, providing safety information, conducting screenings and working with parents on skill building.

Last year the program served 11,992 pregnant women and caregivers, though Reckinger noted there is potentially a greater need of up to 102,000 low-income individuals who would be eligible for services.

“What we know is we don’t have enough money to serve all the families,” Reckinger said. “Unlike many other nations who have universal home visiting, ours is a very targeted home visiting. And so we ask each community that is applying for money from us to say who they are going to serve, who are their priority populations.”

Rep. Dave Pinto (DFL-St. Paul), the committee chair, indicated that the committee would be revisiting the Family Home Visiting Program later this session.

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