Wallowa County will become the 36th and final county in Oregon to implement a Healthy Start Program this summer. Some $77,500 has been tucked away at the state level to implement the program directed toward giving educational and resource assistance to first time mothers and fathers.
A program turned down by the Wallowa County Health Department four years ago because of limited staffing and what at that time was considered to be a "paperwork heavy" plan, Healthy Start is now mandated by the state.
Angie Lunde from the Building Healthy Families office in Enterprise will coordinate the program and make some of the home visits. She thinks that Healthy Start, thanks in part by work done in other counties over the past five years, is much improved over what it was four years ago. Ann Gill will also be utilized to make visits to first time parents, 0as will be a third person still to be hired.
The gist of the program is to work with first time parents to help them gain techniques for better child development. Visits can be made as often as once a week until the child is five years old. Peg VanderZanden of the Commission on Children and Families says she believes that visits normally last until the child reaches about two years of age.
Lunde and VanderZanden hope to have the application to the program completed and sent off by the end of April. The state will then make a site visit before the funds are released. VanderZanden expects the program will be working by July.
First-time mothers or fathers will be contacted through Wallowa Memorial Hospital and asked if they wish to be part of the program. From among some 70 infants born each year at the hospital, it is estimated that 24 will be born to first-time mothers or fathers.