Tuesday, February 26, 2019

The Mankato Clinic Foundation, Greater Mankato Area United Way and Blue Earth County are partnering again in 2019 to continue First Steps, a community initiative to support healthy pregnancies and healthy babies.

First Steps is a community collaborative that connects new and expecting parents to free or low-cost services and resources. Today, First Steps is more critical than ever due to high poverty and lack of affordable housing in our region. Growing up in poverty is one of the greatest threats to child health. In Mankato, 37 percent of households are paying more than 30 percent of their income for housing and more than 15 percent of children age 0-5 in Blue Earth and Nicollet counties are living in poverty.

The First Steps coordinator has an office in the Mankato Clinic Obstetrics and Gynecology Department, where she meets with new and expecting parents to help them navigate the system to access medical, county and community resources. Parents who receive health care services elsewhere in the region are always welcome.  

“Our goal is to ensure children and pregnant women in our region will have a healthy start. By connecting families with essential resources, we can help pregnant women have healthy babies, promote child health and development and strengthen family self-sufficiency,” said Elizabeth Harstad of Greater Mankato Area United Way.

First Steps coordinator Teresa Freitag has served 1090 clients and impacted the lives of about 3,563 people since the program began in late 2012. She meets with expecting mothers, who are primarily referred through Mankato Clinic providers, and addresses medical insurance, housing, access to food, domestic violence, chemical dependency, mental health, parenting and daycare. First Steps wraps families in support with a team of home visiting nurses, parent educators and crisis centers.

“We see expecting mothers who are in need of community support. With First Steps located in our department, we can impact the health and well-being of our youngest children from the prenatal stages to their first years of life,” Mankato Clinic obstetrician Scott Barnacle, MD, said.  

In 2019, First Steps will receive $30,000 from the Mankato Clinic Foundation, $45,000 from the Greater Mankato Area United Way and fiscal and in-kind support from Blue Earth County Public Health.