Scott cuts programs for at-risk first-time mothers
Last week, Gov. Rick Scott cut close to $2 million in health services for at-risk women and children in line-item vetoes to the state budget. Among the projects cut was $200,000 for a pilot program to be carried out by the Healthy Start Coalition of Orange County that would have provided specialized care for high-risk first-time mothers throughout the county.
Healthy Start Coalitions in Florida were created in 1991 by Gov. Lawton Chiles in an effort “to build local coalitions to reduce Florida’s alarmingly high infant mortality rate” at the time. The coalitions focus on making sure that “at- risk mothers receive the care they need for a healthy pregnancy and baby.”
The Orange County pilot program would have started a “nurse-family partnership.” These partnerships provide at-home visits from nurses for at-risk mothers. The nurses would provide care for both the mother and child, as well as educate new mothers.
The executive director of the Orange County Healthy Start Coalition, Linda Sutherland, says the program would have been a big help to the community. She was also hopeful that the program would have been used as a model for the rest of the state.
She says the funding cut is a big loss for women in the county.
“This means that several hundred women will not get the services they need,” she says.
Sutherland says that Palm Beach County and Duval County received money for similar programs. Yet both Orange County and Gadsden lost money for their nurse-family partnerships.
Gadsden lost $500,000 for its nurse-family partnership, bringing the tally of cuts to women’s and children’s health services in line-item vetoes to almost $2 million.
In controversial robo-calls heard throughout the state, Scott’s voice is featured calling these projects “special interest waste.”
Sutherland says cutting these projects is actually a “double-whammy” to women seeking health services in the state. All Healthy Start Coalitions in the state of Florida had already received a 15 percent across-the-board cut in the state’s budget.
As mentioned previously, crisis pregnancy centers were not among the programs cut in line-item vetoes. Sutherland says this is because legislators in Florida “philosophically agree with the mission of CPCs.” She says that cutting funding for Healthy Start yet retaining crisis pregnancy center services is an “oxymoron.”
Because Healthy Start Coalitions service at-risk mothers, they receive a lot of referrals from crisis pregnancy centers in Florida. These pregnancy centers aim to dissuade women from receiving abortions (and they have been found to use medically inaccurate information to do so). Once a crisis pregnancy center convinces at-risk women to keep their pregnancy, they can only receive care from a place such as Healthy Start.
Family planning and aid for women that would reduce unintended pregnancies in the state were also slashed in this year’s budget.