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Cleveland City Council approves funding to continue MomsFirst, which helps pregnant women, families

MomsFirst program Cleveland
Posted at 4:40 PM, Nov 20, 2019
and last updated 2019-11-20 18:17:33-05

CLEVELAND — Cleveland City Council approved funding Monday to continue a program that helps pregnant women and new mothers keep their babies healthy and safe.

The program, called MomsFirst, is funded by the city of Cleveland and by First Year Cleveland, according to Tiffany Ashley, a case manager for MomsFirst at its Merrick House location in Tremont. There are a total of five sites out of which MomsFirst operates.

The legislation approved by Cleveland City Council provides nearly $243,000 for a yearlong contract with Merrick House to offer services to pregnant women and their families.

For mothers in the program, such as Sharica Townsend, MomsFirst has been helpful.

“It’s hectic being a mom,” Townsend, a mother of four, said. “You know, even if it’s just to talk, just to vent or whatever the situation is, it’s really a godsend to everybody out here.”

Townsend said she’s participated in the program during and after all of her pregnancies, including with her youngest, Kelani Lawrence, who is now about 17-months-old.

“Even though I’m a four-time mom, I still have questions,” Townsend said. “Even with this little one, because I’ve dealt with things with him that I necessarily haven’t dealt with with the other kids.”

Tiffany Ashley, one of the MomsFirst case managers, said the program provides support to pregnant women and families and tries to decrease the infant mortality rate in the City of Cleveland by providing moms-to-be with supplies and information about how to keep their babies safe and healthy.

“Imagine if you can get a pack-and-play early, or you can get some things for your baby so you don’t have to worry about those things,” Ashley said. “Or if you need transportation, then we can get you bus tickets or find other ways for you to get to your appointments. We just try to alleviate all the stress and we try to educate all the family on keeping the baby safe and safe sleep.”

Case managers make home visits twice a month until the baby reaches his or her first birthday, a critical milestone in preventing infant mortality, then once a month until the child is 18 months old.

Sharica Townsend said she has her own mother to talk to for help and advice, but she appreciates having a case manager who has current advice and guidance on everything from postpartum depression to SIDS.

“Even at my job I’ve recommended it too, because it’s just a good program,” Townsend said. “We have a lot of first-time moms at my job that need help with the knowledge of knowing about raising a child and just need help with other things, period, and this program offers you so much that others don’t.”

Ashley said the program serves about 600 families in all, across its five sites, and has been around for more than 25 years.