First-time moms find advice, care through county program

Registered nurse Berna Haag, right, with the Nurse-Family Partnership, cradles 3-month-old Raidyn Rickard as the baby’s mother, Samantha Wittern, 17, of Grand Junction eats a hot dog Wednesday during the second annual reunion picnic for the program. More than 200 families are visited by eight nurses with the Mesa County Health Department’s program, which helps children of low-income, first-time mothers from birth to 2 years.

Danielle McGlothlin didn’t know what she was getting into when she became pregnant at 16.

With the help of a voluntary program for low-income, first-time mothers, McGlothin received the advice, care and nurturing she needed to have a healthy child.

“I wouldn’t have been as prepared,” she said, recalling her pregnancy and her daughter’s first years. “I’m the kind of person that wants to know the answers to everything. It made the transition into motherhood a whole lot easier.”

For the past decade, nurses and new moms in Mesa County have connected thanks to the grant-funded Nurse-Family Partnership. Families with children and the nurses who make regular visits before, during and after pregnancies gathered Wednesday for their celebratory annual picnic.

In the past 10 years, the program has served 1,025 clients. The program currently serves more than 200 families with each nurse regularly visiting about 25 families each.

Nurses spend 45 minutes to two hours with families in their homes, during visits that increase in frequency to once a week after the child is born.

Families come to know the nurses as an extension of their families, registered nurse Berna Haag said.

“Even five years later, we’re still hearing from moms.”

Nurses teach the moms how to breast-feed, and they teach the moms about a baby’s development. Even talking to a child in the womb and reading and talking to infants can help their development. Nurses also refer clients to other low-cost or free services.

Jennifer Mondragon and her 2-year-old, Marcos, recently “graduated” from the program. Children graduate, or nurses no longer visit, when children turn 2.

Although Mondragon’s family lives in town, the visits from a nurse kept her out of the doctor’s office.

“It’s nice to have someone to talk to to keep you sane,” she said. “You only see a doctor every three to six months, but I didn’t think that was enough.”


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