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Senator Menendez Accepts AMCHP Legislative Champion Award from SPAN's Diana Autin

on Wed, 01/28/2015 - 19:57

Senator Menendez Accepts Legislative Champion Award from the Association of Maternal and Child Health Programs – SPAN’s Co-Director Diana Autin Presents Award on Behalf of AMCHP

Diana Autin, Executive Co-Director of the Statewide Parent Advocacy Network (SPAN), had the privilege of presenting the Legislative Champion Award from the Association of Maternal and Child Health Programs (AMCHP) to New Jersey Senator Robert Menendez on January 26, 2015.  Her comments and the comments of Senator Menendez follow.

“I am Executive Co-Director of the Statewide Parent Advocacy Network (SPAN), a one-stop for families in NJ.  In addition to housing the Family to Family Health Information Center, SPAN operates three projects aimed at improving birth outcomes, partnering extensively with NJ’s home visiting program.  As an AMCHP member, I have the great pleasure of recognizing a true leader for maternal and child health populations in my state of New Jersey and across the nation, Senator Robert Menendez.  As noted in the Senator’s biography, his “is a quintessential American story.  He grew up the son of Cuban immigrants in a tenement building in Union City and has risen to become one of 100 United States Senators.”  He got his start in politics with his local school board in Union City and went on to become its mayor.  He became a state legislator and was first elected to Congress in 1992.

Senator Menendez has been widely recognized for his leadership on promoting safe and healthy families. He has championed legislation to support mothers suffering from postpartum depression, help families meet the challenges of autism, and keep young athletes safe from harm on the playing field.  He has been one of the leading champions for Family to Family Health Information Centers, and also has become one of the stalwart champions for the Maternal, Infant and Early Childhood Home Visiting Programs.  Senator Menendez also champions women as leaders by his annual recognition of outstanding women leaders in our state through the Women of Distinction Trailblazer Award in honor of his mother, Evangelina Menendez.

Especially now as the expiration deadline for these critical program authorizations is looming, we appreciate your bi-partisan leadership to assure states and communities do not see disruptions in these critical services. It is for this work that we are thrilled to present you with the AMCHP Legislative Champion for MCH Award and would like to invite you to make a few remarks.”

U.S. Senator Bob Menendez (D-NJ) accepted the legislative champion award from AMCHP. His remarks, as prepared for delivery, follow.

“Thank you for your warm welcome and for honoring me with this Legislative Champion for Maternal and Child Health Award.  I also want to thank Millie Jones, President of the Board of Directors and Sam Cooper, the President-elect for their leadership at the Association of Maternal and Child Health Programs.  Although she unfortunately was unable to make the trip to Washington, I want to thank Dr. Lori Garg, who is the Director of the Maternal and Child Health Services at the Department of Health in my home state of New Jersey. And to my good friend Senator Chuck Grassley, with whom I am proud to partner in our efforts to maintain a strong federal commitment to maternal and child health.

Finally, a very heartfelt thank you to my dear friend – and truly outstanding advocate for children with special health care needs and their families – Diana Autin.  Her leadership at the New Jersey Statewide Parent Advocacy Network is second-to-none and there are countless families in New Jersey who owe her a huge debt of gratitude for her wonderful work.

This year marks the 79th anniversary of the passage of the Social Security Act, and the 79th anniversary of the critically important, and highly successful, Title V maternal and child health programs.

With the explicit goal of increasing access to quality health care, reducing infant mortality, providing women with comprehensive prenatal and postnatal care and implementing family-centered and community-based care programs, these Title V Maternal and Child Health programs have benefited generations of children and families across the nation.

In 2013, Title V programs served nearly 49 million people, including four million babies and 2.3 million pregnant women, all while setting the standard for outcome-driven, evidence-based services that are proven to help people live happy, healthy lives. In New Jersey alone more than half a million people have directly benefited from the services and support made possible by Title V.

There are two programs I want to mention specifically as standout programs that I have been proud to champion here in the United States Senate. These two programs not only provide services to children and their families, but also work to teach the skills necessary to ensure continued success for a lifetime – the Maternal, Infant and Early Childhood Home Visiting (MIECHV) program and the Family-to-Family (F2F) health information centers program.

The MIECHV program, by partnering at-risk new mothers and their babies with nurses and other trained professionals, offers services where it matters most - in the home.  By providing new mothers with the skills they need to raise a happy and healthy baby, we see benefits long after the visits stop, though decreased incidence of crime and increased rates of graduation.

The Family-to-Family health information centers provide invaluable supports to children with special health care needs and their families by leveraging the experience and expertise of other parents who have children with special needs. The peer-to-peer model of the F2F program means that parents can trust that the services they receive are tested in real-life by people just like them.  This camaraderie is a critical component, and what makes the F2F program so successful.

While we see programs like MIECHV and F2F are succeeding today, we know they are hugely beneficial to us all in the long-run. However, we cannot assume that they will simply continue on their own. On the contrary, we have to keep working to ensure all the necessary resources are available so you and your colleagues can continue providing services to the people who need it most.

A week from today the President is going to unveil his budget, starting the process that will, hopefully, result in Congress enacting the appropriations bills that fund the government. As we begin the process of writing these bills, it is critical that your Members of Congress hear from you, and that they hear from the people you serve. To make it clear that that too many families rely on these programs for their continuation to be cynically used as negotiating leverage or to wrestle unwanted and unneeded concessions for purely political gains.

While I will continue doing my best to convey that same message, Senator Grassley and I can’t get it done alone. We need your help; we need the help of your Senators and Representatives to join with us to say that investing in these programs is an investment in our children and an investment in our future.

Thank you again for this honor and I look forward to working with all you towards our shared goal of ensuring all new mothers, their babies, their families and their communities are a strong and healthy as possible.”