by Shane Vander Hart
Oregon Governor Kate Brown has made universal home visits one of her priorities in her proposed budget. She has earmarked $4 million for the program, and Oregon Health Authority Director Patrick Allen said that the program is not just for parents who are in trouble.
“This isn’t something for people in trouble. This is stuff all kids need. Stuff my kids needed,” Allen told the Beaverton Valley Times.
The $4 million is a beginning investment into a six-year program to create a universal home visit program.
“When the program is complete, every new parent — this includes adoptions — would receive a series of two or three visits by someone like a nurse or other health care practitioner. The visits could include basic health screenings for babies; hooking parents up with primary care physicians; linking them to other services; and coordinating the myriad childhood immunizations that babies need,” Dana Haynes with the Beaverton Valley Times reports.
Accompanying this budget line item is a study bill, SB 526, introduced in the Oregon Legislature whose chief sponsors are State Senator Elizabeth Steiner Hayward (D-Portland), State Senator Bill Hansell (R-Athena), State Representative Sheri Schouten (D-Beaverton), and State Representative Duane Stark (R-Grants Pass).
The bill directs the Oregon Health Authority to study home visiting by licensed health practitioners. “The authority shall submit findings and recommendations for legislation to an interim committee of the Legislative Assembly related to health care not later than December 31, 2019,” the legislation reads.
The bill declares an emergency which requires the action this year should the bill pass. “This 2019 Act being necessary for the immediate preservation of the public peace, health and safety, an emergency is declared to exist, and this 2019 Act takes effect on its passage,” the bill states.
How this constitutes an emergency is anyone’s guess. Since this bill directs the Oregon Health Authority to study the issue, the legislation is vague. It is unclear whether or not these home visits will be mandatory.
So what Oregon residents need to ask is whether Governor Brown intends to make home visits of new parents universal by providing the opportunity for all new parents to receive a home visit at their request.
Or will it be universal by mandating new parents receive a home visit?
The answer to these questions will be the difference between a useful resource or government intervening in all new families in Oregon.
Photo credit: Oregon Department of Transportation via Flickr, CC BY 2.0