Having a baby can be overwhelming. There’s the physical recovery for the mother, the inevitable loss of sleep, concern for the baby’s health, the seemingly endless list of new equipment babies need, and then there’s the realization that this baby, this beautiful bundle of joy is yours to look after for many years to come. It’s a monumental job for anyone. This job is made much more difficult by lack of support for the mother, insufficient funds, an unstable living arrangement, and lack of access to resources that could help the mother and baby. This is often where Latrice McClendon and Emily Parks, co-owners of Impact Community Health, a Maternal Infant Health Program (MIHP) licensed through the state of Michigan, step in. Latrice and Emily are able to connect mothers with a number of services that help make this exciting and yet demanding transition to motherhood easier. Their “home-based visiting program for Medicaid eligible expectant mothers and mothers with babies” has helped many women navigate the first year of motherhood with such practical guidance as helping moms sign up for health insurance, offering classes on nutrition, and providing access to a lactation specialist. Often hospitals and the health department refer new mothers to Impact Community Health. Latrice and Emily also seek referrals from hospitals and the health department. They don’t want any new mother who is in need of support to not get that support. Having a community around a new mother can often be the difference between a happy, healthy mother and baby and a lifetime of difficulty for both. Impact Community Health connects nurses and social workers with new moms. Consultations regarding the effects of drug use, smoking, depression and stress, and even solutions for an unstable housing situation and employment are offered. Latrice and Emily can also help new moms get cribs and car seats to keep their babies safe. This last aspect of their service is of particular interest to Latrice.

“Our goal is to decrease the infant mortality rate,” says Latrice. “Michigan has one of the highest infant mortality rates in the nation,” she adds, “and Wayne County’s infant mortality is twice that. Some of these deaths are 100% avoidable.” Latrice’s family lost a five month old due to an unsafe sleeping situation, and so providing babies with safe cribs is of great concern to Latrice. Emily used to work for Child Protective Services and knows first-hand the many challenges facing both new mothers and the babies in their care. After a year of being in business, Latrice and Emily have seen the results of their dedicated, caring, and thorough support for mothers and babies: Impact Community Health has a 100% survival rate for the babies in their care. “There is a trickle-down effect to this 100% survival rate,” explains Emily. A healthy, supported mom and baby have a much better chance of living a healthy, happy life. Impact Community Health has earned its reputation as an effective, important service in the community.

Ideally, Latrice and Emily begin their support when a mother first learns that she is pregnant. That way, the mom can derive the greatest benefit from the services available, and the coming baby will derive the greatest benefits as well. Once the baby is born, Latrice and Emily continue their support through the baby’s next 18 months. They stay in touch with the mother to see if any further support is needed such as car seat safety classes, parenting classes, or clothes for the baby. If a mother does not learn about the resources Impact Community Health provides until she is further along in her pregnancy, Latrice and Emily still offer support. Latrice and Emily also consider the needs of anyone who takes care of a baby, which often includes fathers. Latrice and Emily have found that more and more fathers are very interested in the support Impact Community Health provides, and have taken advantage of the classes and services offered.

Becoming a Member of the Grand River WorkPlace

Currently Latrice and Emily are members at the Grand River WorkPlace. They have used the conferences rooms to meet with their social workers and nurses and have used the large room for trainings for their social workers and nurses. The WorkPlace is particularly convenient for Latrice, who lives in Grandmont Rosedale. Currently Latrice and Emily have eight nurses and social workers who help them provide resources to new moms and their babies, but they will soon expand to about 20. Not only are more and more people taking advantage of the services Impact Community Health provides, but also more nurses and social workers are interested in becoming a part of the solution to help support new moms and their babies.

Inviting the Community to Support New Moms and their Babies

While much of their work focuses on the mother and baby, Latrice and Emily understand that a wider supportive community is at least as important. Plans are underway to have a community baby shower. Latrice and Emily are looking to involve the community to help support new moms and their babies by donating gently-used baby clothes, cribs and/or pack and play cribs. They would also love to involve the community cross-generationally. For instance, having some retired nurses volunteer their time would be great. No one knows the challenges a new mother faces better than a woman who’s once been a new mom herself. There is much knowledge and support in our older community members, and Latrice and Emily would like to involve and facilitate this older generation’s support around new moms and their babies.

A dream for both Latrice and Emily is to have a building where new moms could earn “dollars” by attending such classes as parenting, nutrition, or car seat installation, and then use that “money” to shop in the store of gently used items for baby clothes, diapers, and/or supplies. Latrice calls this “Earn and Learn,” and she and Emily hope to open up such a facility close by. Impact Community Health won a Motor City Match grant, so Latrice and Emily are looking for a building that can serve as a community resource center for new moms and their babies. They want to stay in Grandmont Rosedale or perhaps Brightmoor, so that the facility is in the community where it is needed.

For more information about Impact Community Health, email impactcommunityhealth@gmail.com or call 313.694.4386.