A Step Forward on Home Visiting
For a few short months early this year, home visiting was the focus of an advocacy sprint as state stakeholders joined forces with Washington advocates to push successfully for a short-term extension of the Maternal, Infant, and Early Childhood Home Visiting (MIECHV) program beyond its September 30, 2014 expiration date.
On March 31, MIECHV crossed the finish line as Congress gave final approval to a bill to extend a fix for Medicare payments for doctors—the only must-do bill on the horizon before this fall’s elections. Along for a ride that seemed improbable only a few weeks before was an extension of MIECHV’s authorization to March 31, 2015. Most important, the legislation provided a full year of funding at current levels, $400 million. This provision increases the funds in the MIECHV pipeline, staving off the specter of an abrupt end to the program. Under MIECHV, once funds are awarded to an eligible entity in one fiscal year, they can be spent for up to two fiscal years later.
We hope everyone who participated in this fast-paced effort pauses to reflect on our accomplishment—buying time and additional funding for a program that is an important feature in state systems to reach vulnerable young children and families. But after that, we need to lace up our sneakers again for a longer run toward a full reauthorization, ideally by the end of this calendar year. Including MIECHV on the “Doc Fix” bill was a huge step forward, but states cannot effectively operate a major social program in six-month increments.
As with all races, this one depends on preparation. Our recent efforts created more awareness of and support for MIECHV and home visiting in general. State advocates and stakeholders in particular need to build on that support by working to inform their Congressional delegations to an even greater extent about the importance of this program in increasing parents’ capacity to nurture their children’s earliest development. Keep in mind that many policymakers and potential community supporters may not understand what home visiting is. Taking them along to see firsthand how families are helped is a good way to inform them. Check back for guideposts on the next stages for reauthorizing MIECHV. Our voices CAN help make the difference.
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