Jeannie Saltsman and her three-year-old daughter Rozella Saltsman offered U.S. Rep. Buddy Carter, R-1, a real-life glimpse Thursday into how a national program is helping families in Coastal Georgia.
The recent graduates of Healthy Families Coastal Georgia, a national program designed to help expectant and new parents get their children off to a healthy start in life, are local examples of how the program works, said Scott Runkle, executive director Healthy Families.
“He wanted to get a better idea of what the Healthy Families Coastal Georgia program is about,” Runkle said.
Operating from a house owned by Southeast Georgia Health System at 3324 Jekyll Avenue and another location also owned by the Health System, at 2311 Heron St., the program offers weekly voluntary home visiting services in Glynn and McIntosh counties to support positive parenting, child health and development. The program also assists low-income families who are dealing with other risk factors in establishing family goals and self reliance.
“Last year we screened 494 families for services,” said Lori Hatton, Healthy Families Glynn, program manager. “At age three, we try to transition the child out of the program and into Early Head Start. From 2012 until the end of last year, we did over 5,000 home visits in Glynn and McIntosh counties.”
The program is supported with federal, state and local funding.
A small number of referrals are from the Health System but the majority of them are made through the Women Infant and Children or WIC, program, according to Hatton.
“We do have some moms who are dealing with some issues so when we get the child past that first six months, we’re very happy about that,” Hatton said.
Runkle stressed to Carter the importance of investing in these kinds of programs on the front end rather than years down road on the negative end.
“It’s good to see that you see the value in prevention and investing early,” Carter said. “Sometimes it’s hard for us (in government) because sometimes (programs like these), it’s the first place we start with cuts, which costs us down the road.”
Mother Joneya Grant and her three-month-old daughter, Nyriah Grant, are new to the program and also spent time chatting with Carter.
Runkle said the agency has been in the community for the past 25 years and has a lot of support.
“I’m very impressed and thankful to the volunteers and everyone who is involved with this program,” Carter said. “It is the perfect example for seeing what we invest in pays off.”
While in Glynn County Thursday, Carter also rode along with Department of National Resources law enforcement and also attended a Veterans Day ceremony for Vietnam Veterans.