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Groups ready to tackle public health with new state money

St. Joseph County is getting ready to spend $3.3 million in new state money this year, funding that aims to boost Indiana’s dismal health statistics.

The plans are starting to take shape, with programming ready to launch this spring.

On Tuesday the health department will ask the county council to appropriate the money. Of that new $3.3 million, the health department wants to give about $974,000 out in grants to area nonprofit, academic and government groups that have applied.

The groups in December pitched the board of health on how they’d like to use the money across eight key core service areas, from immunizations and chronic disease prevention to lead poisoning and school wellness.

Some of the requests have come from existing programs that want to expand. Cultivate Food Rescue, for example, looks to serve 100 more kids with its backpack program, which sends kids from low-income families home with food for the weekend.

Other grant requests have come from entirely new initiatives. Notre Dame’s Eck Institute for Global Health is proposing pop-up pregnancy and family villages. One would be on South Bend’s west side and the other would be somewhere in Mishawaka, in August and September.

They would bring together service providers to help women who are pregnant or recently gave birth to raise healthier babies and be healthier themselves.

Joyce Adams, an assistant professor with the institute, told the board of health that it’s all about creating a one-stop shop to ease access to services that already exist, like help with navigating insurance, finding a doctor and setting an appointment.

"Having that one convenient location that's offered, say, on a weekend on a monthly basis that people can just come and be able to access it, will really help to decrease some of those access barriers," Adams said.

It would be a pilot project with more pop-ups next year, when the county is expected to receive more of the new Health First Indiana money, about $6 million.

Parrott, a longtime public radio fan, comes to WVPE with about 25 years of journalism experience at newspapers in Indiana and Michigan, including 13 years at The South Bend Tribune. He and Kristi live in Granger and have two children currently attending Indiana University in Bloomington. In his free time he enjoys fixing up their home, following his favorite college and professional sports teams, and watching TV (yes that's an acceptable hobby).