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Baltimore County News

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Keyword: public health

Seeking to strengthen families with evidenced-based, home visiting program

Yesterday, Baltimore County Executive Kevin Kamenetz, Director of Health and Human Services Dr. Gregory Wm. Branch and Abilities Network Director of Program Development Tomeaka Jupiter announced the planned expansion of the Healthy Families Baltimore County. This program is designed to promote child well-being, support positive parenting practices and strengthen family functioning. The expansion proposal is pending Council approval.

Healthy Families Baltimore County, which utilizes the Healthy Families America model, is an evidence-based, home visiting program that optimizes child health and development. Eligible families are referred to the program by the Baltimore County Department of Health, local hospitals, community service agencies and self-referral. Healthy Families works to engage families as early as the mother’s first trimester of pregnancy, and sustains support through the child’s fifth birthday.

“I am grateful for Abilities Network and the work they have been doing to strengthen families for over a decade,” said Kamenetz. “My administration and I are committed to the well-being and equal opportunity of all families in Baltimore County, and are excited about the increased number of families this program will impact.”

The Abilities Network is the County’s vendor for delivering the Healthy Families Baltimore County program, which has been fully accredited by Healthy Families America since 2004. Over 600 families primarily on the east side of the County, have participated in the program since its inception in 1999. With an operating budget of approximately $800,000 from federal, state, and local government funding, the program was enhanced over the last few years to include a Baltimore County Department of Health public health nurse that works in tandem with an Abilities Network family support worker.

The public health nurse has specific roles to include monitoring the health of the mother during pregnancy; providing health education; addressing health factors for the mother-to-be; assisting the family with linkage to resources such as WIC, substance use disorder treatment, behavioral health programs if needed and support services through other agencies. Together the public health nurse and family support worker collaborate as a team to assist the mother with education regarding infant care and safety, nutrition, child development, positive parenting practices, breastfeeding support and reproductive health issues and planning.

“We have the unique opportunity to partner with parents early in their child’s life by providing voluntary, comprehensive, long-term support services right in their home,” said Tomeaka Jupiter. “For many families, this is exactly what is needed for them to achieve the positive outcomes they want for themselves and their children.”

Reducing infant mortality by expanding Healthy Families

Maryland’s infant mortality rates have consistently been higher than the national rate. Both race and socioeconomic status impact the rates. Most recent data released by the Maryland Department of Health and Mental Hygiene (DHMH) in 2015 placed Baltimore County’s overall mortality rate for black infants at 9.8 deaths per 1,000 live births compared to a rate of 4.7 deaths for white infants. According to DHMH for the period from 2011 through 2015, the average black infant mortality rate was 11 per 1,000 live births compared to an average white mortality rate of 4.1.

“Expanding the Healthy Families Baltimore County program is a vital strategy in reducing the infant mortality rate in our County,” stated Dr. Gregory Wm. Branch. “I believe that a program like this gives our families and babies a fighting chance to live, grow and succeed.”

To expand the program, $386,775 from the County’s general fund is being requested. The County’s Local Management Board will allocate up to $120,000 in grant funding towards the countywide program expansion. The bulk of this funding will be dedicated to Abilities Network to increase program capacity. The additional funding will also support the hiring of a second public health nurse who will work in collaboration with Healthy Families Baltimore County.

During this fiscal year, the Healthy Families Baltimore County program is slated to serve 109 families. Pending approval from the Baltimore County Council, the program will be able to serve up to 75 additional families.

For more information about the Healthy Families Baltimore County or to see if you are eligible for the program, call the Abilities Network at 410-828-7700 1228 or send an email to

child getting a shotAnnual Immunizations

As the lazy days of summer come to an end, many parents with school-age children are beginning their back to school preparations. If you’re among them, be sure to include your child’s pediatric check-up or annual immunizations on your list.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention have a list of recommended vaccinations your child should receive—as well as when they should receive them. Newer additions to the schedule in the State of Maryland are specific vaccinations for children who are entering kindergarten and seventh grade. As of last year, the law requires that students entering kindergarten this fall must have two varicella vaccinations. Meanwhile, students who are entering seventh grade must have one Tdap (Tetanus-diphtheria-attenuated pertussis) and one meningococcal (MCV4) vaccination.

Protect Children's Health

Immunization is a key part of protecting your child’s health. Millions of lives have been saved and untold cases of diseases have been prevented because of people getting vaccines to help them develop immunity to serious infections.

Diseases that used to affect many people, such as polio, measles, pertussis (whooping cough), and meningitis, now are rare thanks to vaccines. It’s important to note that the germs that cause these illnesses continue to exist; so continued immunization is critical to the health of your child.

Additionally, immunization isn’t just good for your child’s health; it’s also good for those around him or her. When you immunize your child, you help protect the health of others including those who are too young to be vaccinated, those who are unable to be vaccinated due to medical reasons, and those for whom a vaccine may not be effective.  

As you enjoy your final days of summer and begin your back-to-school shopping, please include your child’s health among your plans. Here’s wishing you and yours a happy, healthy and safe school year!

Back-to-School Immunization Clinics

To assist parents in getting their children immunized before the start of the 2015 to 2016 school year, the Baltimore County Department of Health will provide recommended vaccines at no cost for children up to age 18 who are eligible under the Vaccines for Children program. Learn more about the clinics held August 4 to 19, the Saturday clinics and the daily walk-in clinics at the health centers that are being offered in August and September.

Linda Grossman, M.D., Chief, Bureau of Clinical Services
Baltimore County Department of Health

Department of Health Seeks People Who May Have Been Exposed

The Baltimore County Department of Health was notified on June 2 about a fox that has since tested positive for rabies. The rabid fox was recovered from the 2300 block of Sugarcone Road in Pikesville 21209, on Friday, May 29.

If you, anyone you know or your pet have had any direct exposure (bites, scratches or licks) to a fox between May 15 to 29, 2015, please contact the Baltimore County Department of Health immediately at 410-887-6011. If calling after 4:30 p.m., call 410-832-7182. Additionally, contact your medical provider for treatment.

The Baltimore County Department of Health reminds citizens of the potential dangers of feeding or handling any wildlife and provides the following rabies prevention tips:

  • Everyone should consider the risk of rabies and other diseases before taking in or interacting with any animal, especially if their home contains children, persons with certain illnesses, elderly or other pets.

  • Since rabies remains uncontrolled in the wild, avoid contact with wildlife as well as stray or feral animals, especially if they appear to be sick. There is no risk-free contact with these animals with regard to physical injury, rabies and other diseases.

  • Do not provide food, water or shelter to wildlife or strays. For pets that are fed outdoors, do not leave food or water bowls out for extended periods, especially overnight. Contain garbage in tightly-covered containers.

  • Persons considering adopting stray or feral cats should speak with a veterinarian for guidance. Contact your doctor and the local health department if you are bitten or scratched by a stray or feral cat.

  • Keep your pet’s rabies vaccinations up-to-date. Do not allow pets (even cats) to freely roam the neighborhood

Baltimore County Animal Services provides low-cost rabies vaccinations and spay/neutering. For information on getting your pet spayed-neutered, micro-chipped, licensed or vaccinated against rabies, visit Animal Services or call 410-887-PAWS (7297).

Revised September 26, 2016