Editor’s Note: “Live Well Richland” is a 6-part series brought to you by Richland Public Health, highlighting the programs they offer and the lives they impact.
Richland Public Health (RPH) is widely known for their ability to give immunizations or have Covid-19 take home tests for the public, but they house many other programs that are beneficial to the community.
Richland Public Health can help with environmental health, receiving a birth or death certificate, drug prevention, sexual education, dental health and more.
“Richland Public Health is a lot more than people think, it’s a lot more than I thought it would be when I first started here. It’s a really awesome place,” Public Health Nurse at Richland Public Health, Karissa Fenner RN, BSN said.
Two programs the agency offers are the Prenatal/Newborn Home Visits and the Children with Medical Handicaps Program (CHM). Eight public health nurses provide assistance to families as they navigate the sometimes complex world of healthcare and social services. There are over 530 families receiving services. Fenner has been working with families since she began her employment in January 2021.
The home visits provide an opportunity for the public health nurse to meet with the caregiver and the child in their own environment. Nurses can even give a Cribette, which transitions from a bassinet to a crib, to those who are eligible and need a safe place for the baby to sleep.
“I also give them a packet of resource information for things like parenting classes and car seats,” Fenner said. Additional useful resources provided to participants include assistance with transportation, immunizations, breastfeeding and WIC.
The process of helping soon-to-be moms is one Fenner enjoys. When a referral is received from any number of community partners, a visit is scheduled for the third trimester of pregnancy. The nurse will follow up two to three weeks after the baby is born.
At that point visits vary depending on the needs of the mother and the baby. Those visits are free and offered to everybody. It’s been shown to decrease infant morbidity and mortality, according to Fenner.
Caitlin Schoonover, a soon to be mother of two was referred to the program. She found the home visits to be helpful during a time that was stressful and overwhelming.
“[The program] is actually really helpful. I didn’t really open to them at first, but once I did, I felt comfortable enough to reach out if I needed it,” she said. “[Karissa] gave me a lot of information that was really useful. I thought being a mom was common sense, but definitely not all the time.”
Schoonover received a visit from Fenner in her third trimester of her pregnancy. When Schoonover’s little girl, Nova, was born, she had trouble gaining weight in the beginning months of her life, according to Fenner and Schoonover.
Fenner made bi-weekly visits to weigh Nova and also provide reassurance to Schoonover throughout the next few weeks. Nova also experienced hearing loss after birth which resulted in a couple of medical procedures and eventually the need for hearing aids.
The CMH program links families and children with special health care needs to a network of providers and helps families obtain payment for services their child needs, according to Fenner. This service can assist those with children from the ages of zero to 23 years.
Schoonover did not have to pay anything out of pocket for her daughter’s hearing aids with the help of Fenner and the CMH program. She’s expecting her second daughter in September and is already making plans for Fenner to come and visit in her third trimester.
The home visits and CMH program can be helpful resources that many in the community are unaware of. “There are people who are really struggling to pay hospital bills for their child with special health care needs and they have no idea what the CMH program even is,” Fenner said. “We are definitely helping to give them more access to care and services they need.”
For more information about the public health nursing programs, visit richlandpublichealth.org. To speak to a public health nurse call 419-774-4540.
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