The leaders of six home-visiting programs met with Congressional staff yesterday to discuss ongoing efforts to reauthorize the Maternal, Infant, and Early Childhood Home Visiting Program (MIECHV), hopefully with a boost in authorized appropriations.
Diedra Henry-Spires, CEO of the Dalton Daley Group, a nonprofit advocacy group running point on the push for MIECHV reauthorization, described it as a working lunch attended by “R’s and D’s.”
Attending the meeting: Roxane White of Nurse Family Partnership; Dan Duffy of Healthy Families America; Staci Croom-Raley of HIPPY; Darcy Lowell of Child FIRST; Sarah Walzer of the Parent-Child Home Program; and Constance Gully of Parents as Teachers.
MIECHV was created as part of the Affordable Care Act, and provides states with funds to support a list of approved home-visiting models. These programs pair new and expecting mothers with health, social service or child development professionals to prepare for parenting.
Since its original authorization expired, MIECHV has been saved with $400 million annual extensions attached to other health care laws, most recently the bill to update Medicare in 2016. President Trump’s budget pencils in another two-year, $400 million extension for the program.
The “MIECHV Lobby,” such as it is, is asking for a standard five-year authorization that brings annual appropriations up to $800 million.
The message from Congressional staff, Spires said, was that reauthorization is still on track. At issue is how to pay for a possible expansion of the program, which might involve cuts to other youth- and family-serving streams.
“That part, the offset game, isn’t our job,” Spires said. “But everyone in this environment is worried that a program you love could be used to pay for a program you love.”
The message from CEOs to staff was that things will become very unstable if this doesn’t happen before September, which is when the current MIECHV authorization expires.
“September has to happen so that families keep getting served,” Spires said, and that failure to do so will risk significant layoffs by home-visiting programs and possible termination of services to at least some clients.
Spires sense is that if Congress can move MIECHV in both chambers, it will have support in the Trump Administration. Health and Human Services Secretary Tom Price, a fiscal conservative in Congress before his current post, voted for MIECHV as part of the Medicare bill, Spires noted, and Vice President Mike Pence inked an expansion of Indiana’s home visiting services during his tenure as governor.