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Right From the Start aims to help guide mothers and children to healthier lives

KINGWOOD — Right From the Start (RFTS) is a statewide program that helps West Virginia mothers and their babies lead healthier lives.

Rita McNair, a registered nurse and designated care coordinator (DCC) with the Preston County Health Department, said the program is free, and supports pregnant women, mothers and their new babies by providing information about resources that help create a safe and nurturing home.

One of McNair’s clients, Rachael Pellegrino has participated in the RFTS program for almost a year. She said the program benefited her throughout her pregnancy by providing information and helping her find needed resources.

“I learned a lot about taking care of my self,” she said. “Rita and I met in person every month and we talked on the phone twice a month.”

Pellegrino said the meetings and phone calls provided her with the extra support she needed. She said McNair provided her with information about each stage of pregnancy she went through, and let her know what to expect.

“The program helped me a lot because this was my first pregnancy and it was unexpected. Rita provided me with support and helped me through each phase of pregnancy I was going through,” she said. “I have a three-inch binder full of information and resources she gave me.”

When she decided she wanted to breast feed her baby, Pellegrino said, McNair connected her with a lactose consultant. She said this gave her the information she needed and let her know what to expect when her child was born.

“I got a lot out of the program. My child and I are still in it, and we can stay up to a year,” she said. “I would definitely recommend it to others. Rita is a very caring person who made me feel supported through out the process.”

McNair said to be eligible for the program, a client must be pregnant or have a child under 1-year-old. They must also be a resident of West Virginia and have a current, active Medicaid card or medical coverage through the Office of Maternal, Child and Family Health (OMCFH).

Pregnant teens aged 19 or younger are eligible for medical coverage through the OMCFH regardless of family income if they are uninsured for maternity care.

McNair said the DCC helps mothers learn the skills and resources that keeps their families healthy and safe. Skills include feeding, bathing and changing the baby, safely putting the baby down to sleep, good nutrition for both the mother and the baby, where to get immunizations the baby needs, and creating a positive and healthy family environment.

She said she also helps the expectant and new mothers get information about childbirth and labor, nutrition and breast feeding, body changes during pregnancy, the need to quit smoking and community support resources such as WIC, baby pantries, how to contact the Department of Human Services and Resources, local food pantries and how to find safe places to live.

McNair said a similar program is the HAPI Project. The HAPI Project was designed with expectant and new mothers, fathers and infants in mind. The program serves expectant and new mothers in Barbour, Harrison, Lewis, Marion, Monongalia, Preston, Randolph, Taylor and Upshur counties.

The Preston County Health Department is at 106 West Main St., Kingwood. Hours are from 8 a.m.-4 p.m. Monday–Friday. For more information or to sign up for the Right From the Start Program call 304-329-0096.

For information about the HAPI Project, call 866-738-HAPI.