PO Box 360
Trenton, NJ 08625-0360

For Release:
September 16, 2013

Mary E. O'Dowd, M.P.H.
Commissioner

For Further Information Contact:
Office of Communications
(609) 984-7160

Donna Leusner, DOH
609-984-7160

Kristine Brown, DCF
609-292-0422

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Christie Administration Announces $10 million in Federal Social Services Block Grant Funds To Expand Services to Thousands of Vulnerable Families

Commissioners O'Dowd, Blake Meet with Families Impacted by Superstorm Sandy

The Christie Administration today announced that $10 million in federal Social Services Block Grant (SSBG) funds will be distributed to county health departments, hospitals and community agencies to help thousands of vulnerable families connect with medical and social needs.

State Health Commissioner Mary E. O'Dowd and Department of Children and Families (DCF) Commissioner Allison Blake announced the funding after touring the offices of the Visiting Nurses Association of Central Jersey. The two commissioners met with parents impacted by Superstorm Sandy to hear how several health care and social service case management programs assist the families.

The Department of Health's funding totals $5 million for special child health services.

"Families of children with autism, Down Syndrome, Cystic Fibrosis and other medical conditions have very special needs," said Commissioner O'Dowd. "Superstorm Sandy increased the stresses on these families and this funding will help our partners provide more intensive support services to 8,000 families."

The department's funding includes $3.4 million to support nurses and social workers in 10 agencies: Children's Specialized Hospital, Jersey City Medical Center, the Visiting Nurses Association of Central Jersey, Atlantic County Special Child Health Services School District, and county health departments in Bergen, Cape May, Cumberland, Essex, Middlesex and Ocean. Another $1.6 million will be given to the Statewide Parent Advocacy Network (SPAN) for Parent Resource Specialists. These trained parent advocates work with families and refer them to local, state and federal services to help their families succeed.

An additional $5 million in federal SSBG funds will allow the Department of Children and Families to enhance existing family support programs, such as a home visitation program that assists pregnant women, parents or other caregivers of families with young children in vulnerable populations.

"Home visitation programs have been shown to improve maternal and child health, family functioning and stability, child and family well-being, and prevent child abuse and neglect," said Children and Families Commissioner Allison Blake. "These programs promote infant and child health and development, nurture positive parent-child relationships, facilitate parent resilience, build social and community connections, and provide linkages to needed resources and supports."

DCF will use $2.1 million in federal SSBG funds to expand its current network of nationally recognized, evidence-based home visiting models.

The department has also expanded and enhanced Family Success Centers (FSC) in storm-impacted counties using $2.9 million in federal SSBG funds. Commissioner Blake discussed the network of centers - currently 52 sites around the state - as "one stop" sites that provide wrap-around resources and supports for families before they find themselves in a crisis.

"Family Success Centers provide community-based, family-centered neighborhood gathering places where residents can go for family support, information, referrals and access to services at no cost to them," she said. "The goal of the FSC is to strengthen families and empower individuals to acquire the knowledge they need to raise healthy and happy children."

Diana MTK Autin, executive co-director of SPAN said, "New Jersey's families of children with special healthcare needs were disproportionately impacted by Superstorm Sandy. As New Jersey's one-stop for families, the Statewide Parent Advocacy Network was able to help families with education, health care, mental health, transportation issues and provide parent-to-parent emotional support."

Colleen Nelson, Director of Children & Family Health Programs/Interim VP Children & Family Health, Visiting Nurse Association Health Group, said the additional funding "will allow Special Child Health Services and the VNA's Home Visitation Programs to identify and serve more families who are still recovering from Superstorm Sandy.  Special Child Health Services will enhance their case management to families that have children with special health care and developmental needs. The VNA Health Group is thankful to Commissioner O'Dowd for recognizing the ongoing needs of those affected by the storm and grateful to be able to provide valuable support through this funding."