The Free Press, Mankato, MN

Local News

December 11, 2012

Funding flows to new program that helps get children on track

NORTH MANKATO — The United Way announced Tuesday it has funding for the first three years of a new program it hopes will help direct families of newborns to all the services available to them in the Mankato area.

The program, called First Steps, has been up and running for about three months. But on Tuesday Greater Mankato Area United Way President Laura Bowman said they’ve received a donation of $150,000 over three years from Blue Cross Blue Shield of Minnesota, $90,000 over three years from the Mankato Clinic Foundation, and $40,000 from the Southern Minnesota Initiative Foundation.

The United Way also is committing to contributing $60,000 annually to fund the program.

Bowman said the United Way recognized a need and found a way to make a program happen.

“We’re uniquely positioned to see the need, and to bring together the stakeholders,” Bowman said. “We’re trying to reduce barriers young families see when trying to navigate the health care system.”

First Steps is directed toward parents of newborns. The goal is to identify families who may not know what services are available and don’t know how to get them.

The program puts an expert right on site at both the Mankato Clinic and Mayo Clinic Health System in Mankato.

 Teresa Freitag, First Steps coordinator, said the program has worked with nearly 50 people so far.

Things started slowly, she said. But after she met face to face with doctors and nurses and explained what the program is and how it can help families, referrals started coming in.

Families are told about the program during visits with their doctors. Then, if they choose, they can go directly from their doctor’s appointment to Freitag’s office. Once there she tells them how to get access to social services, Early Childhood Family Education programs, transportation assistance — anything a new parent or new family might need to be successful in raising a child.

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