Reorganization within the New Jersey Department of Children and Families in 2006 included the launch of the Home Visitation Initiative with the overall goal of providing community-based education and support to parents and families in their homes to improve the physical and emotional well-being of infants, children, and families.
As part of New Jersey’s implementation of their Comprehensive Home Visiting System Model, six regions were originally designated central intake agencies to facilitate the referral process from providers and match families with the appropriate home visiting program and/or family support services. By processing all referrals through a single agency in each region, New Jersey successfully increased coordination between programs, limiting duplication of services, and improving the utilization of available resources. The central intake process has enabled counties to better identify and serve at-risk families, in turn, allowing home visiting programs greater capacity by focusing on providing services to families and less time and resources on conducting extensive outreach. This system also helps to connect families with the home visiting model that will best meet their needs, while streamlining referrals to reduce duplication of services and identify any gaps in services.
The central intake system in New Jersey has now been evolving for more than a decade. In April 2012, New Jersey received a $9.4 million grant from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) which supported an expansion of the Maternal, Infant and Early Childhood Home Visiting (MIECHV) Program in the Department of Children and Families (DCF). MIECHV provided an opportunity for the central intake work to expand.
Today the locally driven systems provide families with easy access to information, eligibility, assessment, and referrals to family support services. The system now includes a new standardized risk assessment that allows families to be referred to the most appropriate programs and services. New Jersey’s management information system, Single Point of Entry for Client Tracking (SPECT), helps local central intake sites avoid duplication of services and ensures that the state effectively utilize limited resources. Over time, communities expanded the referral system to include a host of other community-based services as well.
Families come into the central intake system in a number of ways. Some enter through community-based organizations; others are referred by prenatal or health care providers. Community health workers, funded by the Department of Health’s Improving Pregnancy Outcomes Initiative, work alongside the central intake worker to recruit families and direct them to the central intake hub. Either the central intake worker or the community health worker meets with the family in person or by phone and completes the standardized pregnancy risk assessment. With the information from this assessment, the central intake worker is able to review the family information, compare the information to a community-designed referral tree, and refer the family to appropriate services in the community.
In 2016 New Jersey issued a Request for Application (RFA) to expand the central intake system. The New Jersey Department of Health (NJDOH), Division of Family Health Services (FHS), Maternal and Child Health Services announced a competitive RFA to support community-based programs for central intake for MIECHV services. The NJDOH partnered with the Department of Education, through the Race to the Top Early Learning Challenge (RTT) and expanded the central intake system to all 21 counties in New Jersey. Funded programs work to improve utilization of these maternal and infant health services, as strategies to reduce rates of preterm birth, low birth weight, and infant mortality. The evidence-based system of care model, central intake, is also informed by the life course approach to healthcare delivery. This approach features the development of supports, opportunities and social norms that promote and facilitate healthy behaviors across the lifespan. A life course approach to improving birth outcomes is recommended by several national MCH organizations.