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September 18, 2010

Health Department Awarded First Grant to Territory's Health Care Reform Effort, 
Funds to be Utilized for Maternal and Child Health Care 
Programs Under the Affordable Care Act

Yesterday, Governor de Jongh announced a grant award for $500,000 to the V.I. Department of Health’s Maternal and Child Healthcare and Children with Special Needs Programs (MCH & CSHCN), the first grant award to assist the Territory’s healthcare reform initiative. The special funding will facilitate home visits to the department’s clients, an expansion in healthcare services for new mothers and children.

“This grant will go a long way in both the short and long terms to provide greatly needed, additional preventative and primary healthcare services, especially for mothers and their children, including infants through adolescence. As we continue to revamp the Territory’s healthcare system, we strive to ensure better healthcare opportunities for all Virgin Islands children and families, a truly monumental and historic effort that will provide immeasurable benefits to the Territory,” the Governor said.

The half-million dollar grant will allow the V.I. Health Department to staff a project supervisor, director, two nurses responsible for identifying high-risk families and conducting home visits, a medical social worker and an administrative assistant. The remaining funds will cover medical supplies, office supplies and travel. 

The mission of the broad-based, home visitation program will be to increase the number of healthy pregnancies in the Virgin Islands. The new staff will provide early access to healthcare; promote competent care-giving to improve child health, development and safety; and enhance parental development by promoting pregnancy planning, education and employment.

Health Commissioner Julia Sheen similarly noted the benefits of the grant award in assisting the MCH & CSHCN programs to develop a model home visitation initiative that meets the needs of the community, particularly in areas that address problems of premature births, maternal substance abuse resulting in fetal Alcohol Syndrome, and inadequate prenatal care.

Studies consistently show that home visitation programs improve maternal and prenatal health; decrease the incidence of child abuse and child maltreatment; improve parental/infant bonding; improve child developmental outcomes and school readiness; as well as decrease domestic violence. 

"One of my charges as Health Commissioner is to apply for all available grant opportunities that may provide funding towards the Department of Health’s continued goal of increasing healthcare services, including providing greater accessibility to treatment and care, for all Virgin Islands residents. This is especially significant during this historic time of healthcare reform in the Territory," Commissioner Sheen said.

Commissioner Sheen, who is also a member of the Governor's Healthcare Reform Implementation Task Force, reiterated the Administration’s commitment to ensuring that the Territory receives its fair share of funding to improve healthcare services for residents, and noted that this particular grant award represents an important step in the Territory’s healthcare reform process.

With this $500,000 Affordable Care Act grant award, the Department has now received a total of over $5,800,000 in grant funding this year, including: $1.2 million for HIV medication and treatment services; a $3.5 million grant for a five-year youth drug abuse prevention initiative; and more than $600,000 to purchase two new, mobile health vans to assist with outreach efforts, including breast and cervical cancer screenings in both districts. 

There are six, additional grant opportunities for the GVI under the Affordable Care Act for the Territory’s healthcare reform efforts, including: a consumer assistance program grant for $120,000 which would educate consumers on their health insurance rights and responsibilities; a $650,000 grant which would support increasing accessibility for comprehensive healthcare services; a $50,547 grant (plus per capita funding) that would assist with prevention efforts for diabetes, tobacco-related and other high risk diseases; a $1,000,000 grant that would provide funding to assist in the planning and establishment of a Health Insurance Exchange; a grant for $1,000,000 that would help protect consumers from unjustified and/or excessive health insurance rate increases; and grants totaling $159.1 million to support healthcare workforce training in the areas of nursing; geriatrics; and other efforts to improve the recruitment of underrepresented minorities. 

In a press conference held June 9, 2010, Governor de Jongh unveiled the Administration’s plans to holistically reform the Territory’s healthcare system.



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