Nurse Family Partnership

A Special Farewell For Bette Cox Saxton

As she prepares to leave Maternal and Family Health Services, we wanted to take a moment to say thank you and best wishes to MFHS President & CEO Bette Cox Saxton. We asked some of our friends and community partners to record a special message for Bette before she starts her new adventure.

Thank you for all that you’ve done for the women and children of Northeast Pennsylvania, and for everything you’ve done for MFHS! #MFHSproud

MFHS Announces Agency Wide Limited Service Delivery Due To COVID-19

For the safety of our staff and the families we serve, limited services will be available in select locations starting March 17, 2020.  A full archive of our updates regarding the COVID-19 outbreak are available here.

MFHS Family Planning Centers in Hazleton, Pottsville, Circle of Care, Scranton, and Hawley, are open for limited services.  Please contact your Family Planning Center for details.  Your provider can offer phone consultations, alternatives for visits, and additional contraceptive options if needed.     

MFHS WIC Nutrition Centers: the following WIC Nutrition Centers will be OPEN FOR LIMITED SERVICES* (see below for more details on limited WIC services): 

  • Berks County WIC Center in Reading  
  • Bradford County – Towanda WIC Center 
  • Carbon County WIC Center in Lehighton 
  • Lackawanna County – Scranton WIC, Circle of Care in Scranton, Jermyn WIC 
  • Lehigh County – Lehigh Valley WIC Center, Allentown 
  • Luzerne County – Wilkes-Barre WIC Center, Hazleton WIC Center 
  • Monroe County – East Stroudsburg WIC Center 
  • Montgomery County – Lansdale WIC Center, and Pottstown WIC Center  
  • Northampton County – Easton WIC Center 
  • Schuylkill County – Pottsville WIC Center, Shenandoah WIC Center, Tamaqua WIC Center 
  • Tioga County – Wellsboro WIC Center 
  • Wayne County – Hawley WIC Center

The following locations are CLOSED effective March 17, 2020 and until further notice 

  • Berks County – Kutztown WIC satellite 
  • Lackawanna County – Carbondale WIC satellite at the YMCA; Alder Street WIC satellite in Scranton 
  • Luzerne County – Nanticoke WIC satellite at Head Start; West Side WIC satellite at RHC in Edwardsville 
  • Monroe County – Tobyhanna WIC Center 
  • Montgomery County – Norristown WIC Center
  • Pike County – Dingmans Ferry WIC satellite 
  • Sullivan County – Sullivan County WIC satellite in LaPorte
  • Tioga County – Elkland WIC satellite at Head Start 
  • Wyoming County – Tunkhannock WIC Center

If you have an upcoming appointment at the WIC locations on the above “closed” list, you will be contacted by a WIC staff member who will provide further instructions on how to access WIC services. Please do not come to the locations listed above as they will be closed. You will be able to go to another nearby WIC Center for benefit pick up (eWIC card re-loading) appointments 

*Limited WIC services include the following:  

Benefit pick up (eWIC card re-loading) appointments  

  • These will be quick appointments to minimize time spent in the WIC Center.  
  • WIC nutritionists will be available via phone to answer your nutrition or infant and child feeding questions. 
  • Do not bring children or other family members to these appointments.  Only the endorser or proxy needs to come to the WIC Center for eWIC card re-loading.

Re-Certification appointments (appointments that require an assessment by a WIC nutritionist) 

  • Re-Certifications will be temporarily conducted over the phone.  
  • If you have this type of appointment scheduled on or after March 17, you will receive a phone call from a WIC nutritionist prior to your appointment.  
  • When you come to the WIC Center, you will only need to have your eWIC card re-loaded.  You willnotneed to bring your children for the visit. This will minimize your time in the WIC Center.

If you are not able to get to the WIC Center for eWIC card re-loading, you can designate a proxy to come to the WIC Center for you.  Please contact your WIC Center to arrange for this over the phone. 

In order to limit exposure, we ask that you please limit the number of people that you bring with you to your appointment. 

At MFHS, our goal during this crisis is to continue to provide essential WIC services in a safe and effective way.  We appreciate your continued cooperation and patience.  If you have questions regarding your appointment, please reach out directly to your WIC Center or call MFHS at 1-800-FOR-MFHS (1-800-367-6347) 

In the interest of the health and safety for all the families we serve, we ask that you please reschedule your appointment if you or anyone in your household has: 

Fever, chills, coughing, signs for respiratory illness or flu-like symptoms 

Or has recently: traveled out of the country, or to an area with widespread cases of Coronavirus, or if you have been in contact with anyone know to have the virus. 

Call 1-866-942-8463 to reschedule your WIC appointment. 

Montgomery County WIC Change in Service Delivery Due to COVID-19

MFHS will continue to update our website as the Covid-19 pandemic continues. For the entire archive of our updates on this evolving situation, please visit our dedicated Coronavirus Disease (COVID-19) page

Notice to WIC Participants in Lansdale and Pottstown WIC

Limited WIC services will open in Montgomery County effective Monday, March 16

  • Benefit pick up (eWIC card re-loading) appointments scheduled on or after March 16th will take place as scheduled.
  • These will be quick appointments to minimize time spent in the WIC Center.
  • WIC nutritionists will be available via phone to answer your nutrition or infant and child feeding questions.
  • Re-Certification appointments (appointments that require an assessment by a WIC nutritionist) will be temporarily conducted over the phone. If you have this type of appointment scheduled on or after March 16th, you will receive a phone call from a WIC nutritionist prior to your appointment.  When you come to the WIC Center, you will only need to have your eWIC card re-loaded.  You will not need to bring your children for the visit. This will minimize your time in the WIC Center.
  • If you are not able to get to the WIC Center for eWIC card re-loading, you can designate a proxy to come to the WIC Center for you.  Please contact your WIC Center to arrange for this over the phone.
  • In order to limit exposure, we ask that you please limit the number of people that you bring with you to your appointment.

Notice to WIC Participants Receiving Services at Norristown WIC Center

  • The Norristown WIC Center will be closed for services beginning March 16th, until further notice.
  • Anyone who has an upcoming appointment will be contacted by a WIC staff member who will provide further instructions on how to access services. Please do not come to the Norristown Center, as we will be closed.
  • Benefit pick up (eWIC card re-loading) appointments scheduled on or after March 16th will be done at another nearby WIC Center
  • Re-Certification appointments (appointments that require an assessment by a WIC nutritionist) will be temporarily conducted over the phone. If you have this type of appointment scheduled on or after March 16th, you will receive a phone call from a WIC nutritionist prior to your appointment.  You will then be instructed on where to go to receive your benefits.
  • If you are not able to get to one of other centers for eWIC card re-loading, you can designate a proxy to come to the WIC Center for you.  When you receive your call from one of our WIC staff members, you can arrange for this over the phone.

For any questions about accessing services, please call 1-866-942-8463.

At MFHS, our goal during this crisis is to continue to provide essential WIC services in a safe and effective way.  We appreciate your continued cooperation and patience.  If you have questions regarding your appointment, please reach out directly to your WIC Center (link to list of WIC Centers) or call MFHS at 1-800-FOR-MFHS (1-800-367-6347)

In the interest of the health and safety for all the families we serve, we ask that you please reschedule your appointment if you or anyone in your household has:

  • Fever, chills, coughing
  • Signs for respiratory illness or flu-like symptoms

Or has recently:

  • Traveled out of the country
  • Traveled to an area with widespread cases of Coronavirus
  • Or if you have been in contact with anyone know to have the virus.

Call 1-866-942-8463 to reschedule your WIC appointment.

Maternal and Family Health Services President and CEO to Step Down in June

Bette Cox Saxton

Maternal & Family Health Services, Inc. announced today that Bette Cox Saxton will step down as MFHS President & Chief Executive Officer in June.

“I will be leaving to pursue some exciting opportunities and new challenges in the next chapter of my career. It has been an absolute honor and privilege to serve as the leader of this most outstanding organization,” Saxton said in a statement released to the Board of Directors. ”Maternal and Family Health Services is well positioned to continue its mission of meeting the needs of the community through our health and social services. Over the years, I have learned volumes about the value of public health and the positive impact our services have on the lives of women, children, men and families in Northeastern Pennsylvania.”

During her 20 years at MFHS, Saxton’s vision, creativity and commitment have resulted in significant expansion of opportunities for low-income women, children, and families throughout Northeastern Pennsylvania. Some of her most notable accomplishments at MFHS include expanding the Nurse-Family Partnership to four counties meet the increasing need for home visiting nurses from this highly regarded, evidence-based program.

In addition, Saxton oversaw the expansion of Scranton’s Circle of Care Center, which integrates all MFHS services in a one- stop model– delivering comprehensive, high-quality, accessible reproductive healthcare and social services to women and children in Lackawanna County. In 2018, she launched a behavioral health integrated care model with the addition of a Licensed Clinical Social Worker (LCSW) to counsel and support pregnant women and mothers battling substance abuse and behavior health issues.

Under her leadership, MFHS developed the SafeTeens initiative, which includes an award-winning website and a national textline that enables teens to get accurate and even personalized health information to make healthy, positive choices. This concept has become the foundation for SafePlace school initiatives in the region.

Saxton’s tireless and vigilant advocacy on behalf of MFHS with both state and federal legislators has been critical to the success of the organization. The key relationships she has forged with legislators have helped strengthen MFHS’ position in non-profit health and human services sector, particularly during periods of funding shortfalls.

She has consistently promoted increased collaboration among area non-profits, and as a result MFHS now works closely with such programs as Healthy MOMS and FREE2B Mom to help mothers with opioid abuse disorder lead healthy lives in recovery. Her focus on collaboration has also led great organizational efficiencies, including co-locating many of MFHS service centers with community partners to increase access to vital programs and services for the entire community.

“Bette’s a true visionary who whose keen strategic and goal-oriented mindset enabled the organization to grow, evolve and prosper to meet the ever-changing needs of the clients we serve,” said MFHS Board Chair Kathy Finsterbusch. “The Board is very grateful for her dedication and, of course, the many accomplishments she achieved during her two decades of leadership; however, we also understand and support her decision and begin a new chapter of her professional career.”

“I can honestly relate that I have learned and embraced valuable life lessons and was given tremendous opportunities in a field that I have personally and passionately committed to for most of my life,” said Saxton. “I’m both humbled and grateful to lead an organization that has so positively touched the lives of literally hundreds of thousands of individuals during my tenure. I look forward to the next few months remaining in my role as I endeavor to continue our good work and do all I can to ease the transition for my successor.”

The non-profit’s board of directors has commenced a search for her successor.

Studies Demonstrate Positive Impact of MFHS Programs

Two MFHS programs were the subject of recent high profile studies demonstrating positive impacts on maternal and child health.

A study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) in December 2019 found that WIC participation is associated with lower preterm birth and infant mortality.  Specifically, the study found that babies born to WIC participants are 33% less likely to die the first year of life.

This study validates that WIC is an effective intervention to improve birth outcomes and ensure the healthy growth and development of children.

In response to the study, the National WIC Association noted that the infant mortality rate in the US is nearly twice as high as rates in other developed countries. It is imperative that we elevate and strengthen proven and effective interventions that help babies and young children thrive. WIC is the gold standard in that effort.  However, not every eligible family is connected to WIC services.  The authors of the study stated that “promoting WIC enrollment through public health campaigns and increasing federal funding for the program could raise the number of expectant mothers with low income or at risk for poor nutrition receiving the benefits throughout pregnancy.”

A study on the long-term positive impact of the Nurse-Family Partnership program made headlines in November 2019.  Pediatrics published an 18-year follow-up of moms and children in Nurse-Family Partnership’s Memphis trial. The follow-up study found that Nurse-Family Partnership significantly improved the cognitive functioning and academic performance of 18-year old children born to high-risk mothers with limited psychological resources to cope with poverty.  Babies born into the NFP during the Memphis trial are now teenagers, and the study showed that they had improved cognitive outcomes compared to youth in the control group.  Mothers, with an NFP Nurse, had improved economic self-sufficiency. At the 18-year follow-up, they have greater confidence in their ability to manage life challenges, were significantly more likely to be married and had spouses who were employed 14 months longer than those in the control group. These nurse home visits had a profound effect in laying the foundation for moms to build stronger families.

An additional Pediatrics study, over the same 18-year period, found that Nurse-Family Partnership saved government $17,310 per family in public benefit costs, resulting in a net savings of $4,732 in government costs in 2009 dollars.

In addition, Harvard University research on the impact of poverty and toxic stress during pregnancy took note of the positive impact of the Nurse-Family Partnership and other interventions that begin during pregnancy.

The stresses of poverty essentially handicap a baby for life literally before birth, according to a massive and growing body of research from over the past decade, causing the brain to react in ways that lead to riskier behavior — and to a higher likelihood of bad health, poor grades, lower earnings and prison time.  Jack Shonkoff, a Harvard University professor of pediatrics and director of Harvard’s Center on the Developing Child, said, “People living in poverty are at much greater risk to experience toxic stress, because the causes of stress in their daily lives don’t go away easily — the stress of having a roof over your head, the stress of food, the stress of having bills to pay, the stress of not being able to get out of that hole,”

A burgeoning field of research shows that the imprint of poverty and its toxic stressors can actually be reversed — just by making some radical shifts in prenatal care for poor moms, through programs that provide consistent, empathic one-on-one coaching with the mother while she is pregnant, and continuing through early childhood.  “The right kinds of supports during pregnancy are ultimately the earliest intervention for … increasing the likelihood that that next generation will do better,” Shonkoff says.

Letter to the Editor: Study Reaffirms Success of the Nurse-Family Partnership Program 

The following letter was published in the Citizen’s Voice on January 1, 2020.

A report recently published in Pediatrics, a leading peer-reviewed journal of the American Academy of Pediatrics, released the findings of an 18-year follow-up of participants in a randomized, clinical trial of Nurse- Family Partnership (NFP). The study found that NFP significantly improved the cognitive functioning and academic performance of 18-year-old youth born to high-risk mothers with limited psychological resources to cope with poverty. For those unfamiliar with this very important and impactful program, NFP changes the future for the most vulnerable babies born into poverty by giving a first-time mom trusted support from her own personal nurse. 

At Maternal & Family Health Services, which provides the NFP program in Luzerne, Lackawanna, Susquehanna and Wayne counties, we couldn’t be more pleased with the study’s results, although I can genuinely relate that I’m not surprised. For nearly 20 years, I’ve seen firsthand many positive outcomes often shared by our team of dedicated, specially- trained, compassionate nurses—who begin home visiting six months prior to delivery and for the following two years after the child is born. 

Those familiar with this evidence-based program (which, by the way, enjoys bi-partisan political support–a rarity in today’s partisan environment) know that nurse home visits during pregnancy and the mother’s first two years of parenting have a profound impact in laying the foundation for moms to reduce the impact of poverty and build stronger families. Perhaps Frank Daidone, national president and CEO of NFP, summed it up best when the report was released. “There’s no better public investment than investing in and building stronger families,” he said. “Not only does the government save money, but youth and families prosper and communities thrive.” 

We know for a fact that mothers who have an NFP nurse have improved economic self-sufficiency and the study bears that out: those moms have greater confidence in their ability to manage life’s challenges and are significantly more likely to be married. The outcomes for youth, more specifically, were improved math achievement, working memory and ability to read others’ emotions. What’s more, the study reveals that the youth visited by NFP nurses were three times more likely to graduate from high school with honors!  

The study also revealed a critical outcome that is often overlooked: NFP saved the government in reduced public benefits over an 18-year period, including $17,310 per family in reduced public benefits that resulted in a net savings of $4,732 in 2009 dollars, which represents a nine percent reduction in public benefit per family. The high savings mirror what MFHS has seen: reduced costs in the areas of Medicaid, the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) and welfare cash assistance. Our experience with the program demonstrates that these reduced governmental costs are explained in part by nurse-visited mothers doing better in planning subsequent pregnancies. 

At MFHS, our NFP program continually strives to explore potential collaborative relationships with other like- minded organizations to enhance the overall success of nurse home nurse visiting to help those in need. We are currently a partner with Geisinger Wyoming Valley’s “Free2BMom” program in which our NFP nurses will home visit moms with opioid use disorder (OUD) for two years after their childbirth. The Geisinger program arose out of a startling trend noticed by health officials in Luzerne County: a significant increase of babies being born with neonatal abstinence syndrome (NAS), a term for a number of problems a baby will experience when withdrawing from exposure to drugs. 

We’ve also partnered with Lackawanna College and its incoming president Dr. Jill Murray to work together to annually award full-tuition scholarships to MFHS NFP moms to provide a financial pathway to further their education. At our Annual Community Awards Luncheon in October, it was most satisfying to report that our first two scholarship recipients are excelling in the classroom, with both carrying above a 3.0 grade point average (GPA). These scholarships complete the ‘circle of care’, providing that key pathway to education and success. 

In addition, many of our NFP clients, upon completion of the program, choose nursing as a career path because of their experiences and the relationships they developed with their visiting nurse. Some former clients also serve as NFP peer counselors, who reach out to eligible women, talking to them about the program’s benefits and sharing experiences with them. 

In the final analysis, our Nurse-Family Partnership program continues to play a critical role in successfully reducing welfare use, improving maternal life course, improving cognitive development and academic achievement, reducing juvenile crime and improving birth outcomes. 

Most importantly, we’re always here for qualified first-time mothers who don’t need a handout, but the helping hand of a caring visiting nurse. 

Regards, 

Bette Cox Saxton
President & CEO
Maternal and Family Health Services 

 

Double Your Impact on #GivingTuesday 2019!

#GivingTuesday 2019 is almost here! Mark your calendars – this international day of giving is happening on December 3rd, 2019, the first Tuesday after Thanksgiving. MFHS is thrilled to announce that we will be partnering with AllOne Charities for the second year in a row to celebrate #GivingTuesday! Your donation will be doubled thanks to the generosity of AllOne. Here is what you need to know:

  • Every gift made to MFHS up to $1,000 total will be matched by AllOne. Donations must be made via the AllOne Charities website to qualify for the match.
  • You can make you donation from Wednesday, November 27th until Wednesday, December 4th at 4pm.

New this year: AllOne is offering two bonuses to the non-profits participating in 2019:

  • The non-profit that raises the most money earns a $1,000 bonus.
  • The non-profit with the most individual donors also earns a $1,000 bonus.

Please mark your calendars and consider making an end of year gift to support MFHS via the AllOne #GivingTuesday website. Every gift, large and small, will help us continue to provide life changing health and nutrition services to women, children and families in Northeast Pennsylvania.

 

Save the Date: 2019 MFHS Healthy Heroes Walk!

On June 15th at PNC Field, MFHS will be participating in the 2nd Annual Highmark Walk for a Healthy Community in Northeastern Pennsylvania. Joined by 11 other local nonprofits, we will be celebrating kids helping kids through our Healthy Heroes Walk. We encourage walkers to come dressed as their favorite superheroes, and come ready to have fun!

This exciting event features not only a 5k walk, but also a 1 mile walk and a variety of fun family activities and prizes. There will be music, activities, mascots, snacks, and so much more! You can read more about what MFHS has planned here, and keep checking back as we are still adding details!

100% of funds raised for this event will go towards supporting families served by MFHS. Click here to register a team of your family and friends, and come out to walk for women and children in our community.

Delayed Opening January 31, 2019

All MFHS locations will open at 10 a.m. on Thursday, Jan. 31, due to the predicted extreme cold conditions.

To reschedule appointments, please call your local MFHS office and we will be happy to help. Please exercise caution and allow for extra time while traveling. If there are any changes to MFHS office schedules, we will update this page. Stay safe everyone!

Recognizing Maternal Health Awareness Day at MFHS

Wilkes-Barre, PA: Maternal & Family Health Services, Inc. (MFHS) held a news conference today featuring State Senator Lisa Baker, and Dr. Lynne Coslett-Charlton to announce that January 23rd is the first official Maternal Health Awareness Day in Pennsylvania. Sen. Baker introduced the Senate resolution because of significantly rising maternal mortality rates in Pennsylvania and across the country. Representative Eddie Day Pashinski supported a similar resolution in the House, marking this day to recognize the women who die from complications of pregnancy or childbirth.

The House has also recently formed the Maternal Mortality Review Committee, which is working to gather information and find solutions to address some of the most prevalent medical issues facing pregnant women. Dr. Lynn Coslett-Charlton, who chairs the Pennsylvania section of the American College of OB-GYN, was the lead in introducing the bill to develop the MMRC. MFHS President & CEO Bette Saxton was appointed to the committee last year.

“I’d like to thank Dr. Coslett-Charlton and Maternal and Family Health Services for hosting us today, and for your leadership in advancing what I believe is a very simple policy approach that Pennsylvania needed to adopt,” said Senator Baker. “The creation of the fourteen member committee that will help us look at prevention, education, training and opportunities to improve the health and wellbeing of mothers and their babies.”

More women die from pregnancy complications in the United States than in any other developed country in the world. Despite advances in medicine and medical technologies, the United States saw a 26 percent increase in the death rate of expectant mothers from 2000-14. And according to a 2016 report from America’s Health Rankings, based on Centers for Disease Control National Vital Statistics System data, Pennsylvania ranks 21st in the nation in maternal death rates. Maternal Health Awareness Day is designed to highlight this problem and the work being done to improve maternal health across Pennsylvania.

“Maternal and Family Health Services is best known for its prevention and intervention services,” said MFHS President & CEO Bette Cox Saxton. “Last year we served over 5,200 low-income pregnant and postpartum women and over 12,000 infants. We know we have a vital role to play in helping mothers recognize key risk factors associated with maternal and infant mortality. I am honored to be on the newly formed Maternal Mortality Review Committee to begin the important work of reducing maternal deaths in Pennsylvania.”

“I can think of no better place to roll out the first Maternal Health Awareness Day in Pennsylvania than Maternal and Family Health Services,” said Dr. Coslett-Charlton. “I want to especially thank Senator Baker for supporting ACOG’s goal of creating the Maternal Mortality Review Committee and for the resolution to introduce Maternal Health Awareness Day and for advancing women and children’s health.”