Ballad Health’s Niswonger Children’s Network Will Provide Residential & Other Care For Pregnant Women & Mothers In Need Of Behavioral Health Services Through Strong Futures Program

Friday, March 5, 2021

Following Ballad Health's announcement of the new Niswonger Children's Network, a regional system of healthcare and community services marking a new phase for children in the Tri-Cities, the health system is now highlighting how the network reaches into communities to impact change.

Ballad Health Strong Futures, located at the former Takoma Regional Hospital campus in Greeneville and which drew a $7 million investment from the 2Gen grant contract with the State of Tennessee and the Tennessee Department of Human Services, in addition to Ballad Health's investment, provides extensive treatment and housing for pregnant women and mothers who suffer from addiction or need other behavioral health services. The program was announced in January, and it is preparing to see patients this month.

By providing a safe place for these women, some of whom are homeless, Strong Futures can provide food and housing security and facilitate additional services, including therapy, literacy, workforce training, drug and alcohol treatment, and more. There are very few facilities like this in the nation, and none of this size or scope.

This program is funded in part under a 2Gen grant contract with the State of Tennessee and the TDHS. The Tennessee Department of Human Services launched the 2Gen grant program in 2014 as part of its nationally recognized Two Generation approach to addressing the needs of parents and children at the same time. The department has since awarded grants to fund programs with more than 60 organizations and educational entities across the state.

Strong Futures is currently taking names of those interested in applying for the program. Applicants must be at least 18 years old and either an expectant mother, a mother with children younger than 18 living at home, or a mother with children younger than 18 attempting to regain custody. Applicants must also be willing to undergo a complete medical and psychiatric screening, have a diagnosed substance use disorder, and meet other criteria as set forth by the 2Gen grant guidelines. Please call 278-1696 to learn more.

Also, in Greeneville, Ballad Health will begin a new program called Strong Starts. This effort represents a unique approach to maternity care, early childhood development, and family support that will grow to cover all newborns, mothers, and families throughout the Ballad Health service area.

Data shows early investment in early childhood health and development pays off. Even in the best of times, mothers and families might struggle to connect with the supports they need to help a child thrive. The COVID-19 pandemic, job loss, the serious medical condition of post-partum depression, and other challenges might make it even harder. Studies show children with significant adverse experiences in childhood are four times less likely to graduate high school college- or career-ready.

In the program's first phase, Ballad Health community health workers based in obstetrics practices in the region will meet with expectant mothers as early as possible in their pregnancy to create a pregnancy plan to support the medical care and advice of their physician. This might include lactation education, assistance with transportation, smoking cessation, parent support groups, nutrition assistance, and other programs. Through its work with the STRONG Accountable Care Community and other population health programs, Ballad Health has identified hundreds of resources for mothers, children, and families and already works closely with many of them.

The program will be open to all expectant mothers, regardless of income, insurance status, or medical condition. The first three pilots will be run at Ballad Health Medical Associates Obstetrics and Gynecology in Kingsport and Greeneville and at ETSU Health in Johnson City, and it will expand as quickly as additional obstetric practices are identified and interested in participating.

A second phase of the program, focused on long-term support, in partnership with community pediatricians, is in the planning stages for the next year.

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