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Visits coming for kids in need

T-L Photo/ROBERT A. DEFRANK Belmont County Department of Job and Family Services Director Jeff Felton meets Monday with the Belmont County Board of Health. The DJFS will provide funding through a state grant for a nurse to visit families where infants have been exposed to dangerous substances.

ST. CLAIRSVILLE — Infants and children exposed to dangerous substances at a young age will have some additional assistance during those early, vulnerable years via home visits from a nurse with the Belmont County Health Department.

The service is being funded through the Belmont County Department of Job and Family Services. DJFS Director Jeff Felton said the project was made possible through the Communities of Care Grant available through the state.

“We’re offering to provide some funding with a grant that we have for a nurse,” Felton said. “We received a grant to do a followup for cases that children under the age of 12 months are exposed to substances, legal or illegal or prescribed. … The health department will provide the nurse and we’ll provide the funding.”

Felton said the number of children exposed has been increasing since 2016 and 2017.

“It’s gotten worse over the last years,” Children Services Director Christine Parker said.

“We get referrals when infants are born positive, or testing positive (for exposure) at birth. That’s what this grant was designed to address. Those kids — newborns in particular, but they often have siblings — new babies test positive for some type of substance or the mothers test positive at birth.”

The two-year grant of $80,000, or $40,000 a year, will run out in June 2023.

Felton said the nurse would visit the clients at their homes.

“Nurses as home visitors are better than non-nurses,” he said.

“We can … coordinate the visits between the nurses, Children Services and Wheeling Hospital. It will be an ideal situation,” Parker said.

Linda Mehl, director of nursing with the health department, said one of the department’s nurses has resigned. The replacement to be hired by the health department will have home visits as part of their duties.

“The groundwork’s already been laid with Wheeling Hospital. It’s something we can start very quickly,” Mehl said.

“It’s a good partnership. A few hours in the home, and it’s one less new person (needing help),” Felton said.

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