Healthy Start program fares well in state budget

Budget leaders agreed to partially restore Healthy Start funding that was cut during last year’s legislative session. The budget that passed March 9th allocates $3.2 million in additional funding for the program. About $1 million of the proposed funding is for one year only.

This is a significant victory for Healthy Start in a tight budget year. We appreciate the work of the Board, Coalition members, key legislators and state and local partners in advocating for this increase. Last year’s $5.4 million funding cut resulted in a loss of nearly $550,000 in Northeast Florida and the elimination of services for more than 1,300 pregnant women and infants in the region.

In other budget action, leaders agreed to nix authorization of federal home visiting dollars for the coming year. The funding, which is being used to support the Nurse-Family Partnership in three Jacksonville neighborhoods, is part of the Affordable Care Act (ACA). Although authorization of these funds was included in both the Governor’s and Senate budgets, the House stood firm in its pledge not accept any money connected to health care reform pending a Supreme Court decision on its constitutionality. The court is scheduled to hear the suit, brought by Florida and several other states, in March. The Healthy Start Coalition is one of five sites in the state with funding to implement the program through June.