Washington, D.C. – July 11, 2023 – ZERO TO THREE, the nation’s leading nonprofit working to ensure all babies and toddlers have a strong start in life, applauds New Jersey’s recently approved FY 2024 budget, which includes $500,000 in state dollars eligible for federal match—a $1 million investment—in the evidence-based HealthySteps program.
As a result of this investment, the state will require Managed Care Organizations to provide an enhanced payment for well-child and sick visit claims submitted for children under four years of age at HealthySteps sites. By increasing funding for providers, this enhanced payment will allow practices to provide early childhood development support to families where they are most likely to access it—the pediatric primary care office.
Recent advancements in scientific understanding of child development tell us that the early years are important to all of us—the capacities and skills developed during this critical period become the basis of a prosperous society. HealthySteps transforms the promise of pediatric primary care through a unique team-based approach that integrates a HealthySteps Specialist, a child development expert, into the health care team. HealthySteps Specialists identify whether children are reaching physical, cognitive and social-emotional developmental milestones; help connect families to additional services; answer families’ questions about child development and well-being and provide nurturing parenting guidance. Evidence shows that the HealthySteps model not only benefits both children and their caregivers but also drives Medicaid cost-savings across generations.
“It is wonderful to see New Jersey policymakers continue to recognize the critical influence of a child’s earliest years on their development, and the importance of investing early to prevent costly health challenges from emerging later in life,” said Dr. Rahil Briggs, National Director of HealthySteps at ZERO TO THREE. “This commitment marks significant progress towards ensuring that all babies and toddlers in New Jersey have a strong start in school and in life.”
New Jersey is home to four active HealthySteps sites, reaching approximately 2,000 children annually. And as a result of recent federal investment from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ Health Resources and Services Administration, an additional eight sites are on their way, increasing the reach of HealthySteps in the state to over 15,000 children annually.
“We have seen first-hand the beneficial impact this program has had on families and the health care team at our four HealthySteps primary care sites,” said Dr. Judy Aschner, Physician-in-Chief and HealthySteps Physician Champion at Hackensack Meridian Children’s Health, the first health system to launch HealthySteps in New Jersey. “The positive testimonials we’ve heard from families who have benefited from this program speak to the need to provide focused early childhood development and behavioral health support and resources to families with newborns, infants and toddlers in the pediatric primary care setting.”
This win for New Jersey’s children and families would not have been possible without investment from The Burke Foundation, the Turrell Fund, The Nicholson Foundation and Hackensack Meridian Health, and partnership with Advocates for Children of New Jersey, the New Jersey Health Care Quality Institute, the New Jersey Chapter, American Academy of Pediatrics and Seton Hall’s Center for Health & Pharmaceutical Law. The Burke Foundation and Turrell Fund remain committed to supporting HealthySteps so that more families with young children in New Jersey can experience transformative pediatric care.
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HealthySteps is an evidence-based program of ZERO TO THREE, the nation’s leading nonprofit working to ensure all babies and toddlers have a strong start in life. HealthySteps transforms the promise of pediatric primary care through a unique team-based approach that integrates a HealthySteps Specialist, a child development expert, into the health care team. All children ages 0-3 and their families receive a tiered model of services, from universal screening to risk-stratified supports, including care coordination and onsite intervention, as needed. HealthySteps practices serve as trusted and valuable partners as families foster their children’s healthy development. Together, the national network of HealthySteps sites aims to reach more than 1 million young children and families annually by 2032. Visit healthysteps.org or contact ZERO TO THREE to learn more at zerotothree.org.
About ZERO TO THREE
ZERO TO THREE works to ensure all infants and toddlers benefit from the family and community connections critical to their well-being and development. Since 1977, the organization has advanced the proven power of nurturing relationships by transforming the science of early childhood into helpful resources, practical tools and responsive policies for millions of parents, professionals and policymakers. For more information, and to learn how to become a ZERO TO THREE member, visit zerotothree.org.
About Hackensack Meridian Children’s Health
Hackensack Meridian Children’s Health provides the most comprehensive and highest level of quality care to young patients in the state of New Jersey. The children’s network is comprised of two children’s hospitals – Joseph M. Sanzari Children’s Hospital at Hackensack University Medical Center in Hackensack and K. Hovnanian Children’s Hospital at Jersey Shore University Medical Center in Neptune – and a large network of pediatric subspecialists and pediatricians throughout New Jersey, including a multispecialty practice and inpatient services at JFK University Medical Center in Edison. Both hospitals ranked #1 in New Jersey in the U.S. News & World Report 2023-24 Best Children’s Hospital Report for the third year in a row. The combined care programs at both hospitals were also nationally ranked among the top 50 for pediatric cancer, nephrology, neurology and neurosurgery, and urology, earning the most national recognitions ever for a children’s hospital in New Jersey. Visit hackensackmerdianhealth.org/kids to learn about Hackensack Meridian Children’s Health.
About The Burke Foundation
The Burke Foundation invests in transformative early childhood initiatives to build a cycle of opportunity across generations in New Jersey. The Foundation prioritizes the First 1,000 Days – the time between pregnancy and a child’s second birthday – to create two-intergenerational impact by transforming health systems to deliver better care, prevention, and community connections. Visit burkefoundation.org to learn more.
About the Turrell Fund
For over 80 years, the Turrell Fund has supported local and systems-wide work in early childhood and the arts. The Fund’s mission is to increase access and eliminate barriers to quality educational and developmental services for the youngest and their families. Visit turrellfund.org to learn more.