On April 4, Kentucky Governor Steve Beshear signed into law a measure that sets up one of the strongest home visiting systems in the country by building on the strength of Kentucky’s flagship home visiting program for new and expectant parents, the Health Access Nurturing Development Services (HANDS) Program. HANDS achieves outcomes such as lowering the rates of preterm births and infant mortality, and reducing childhood injuries, neglect, and emergency room usage.
The law, which was approved unanimously in both the senate and the house, ensures that all state investments are directed to programs that are proven to produce successful results. It will strengthen Kentucky’s home visiting system by requiring all programs to meet rigorous quality standards and report on their effectiveness in achieving outcomes for children and families. Finally, it assures that home visiting programs are coordinated within a system of early care and education and specifically prohibits duplication of services. These changes are designed to guarantee public funds are used effectively and generate a positive rate of return for Kentucky taxpayers.
Kentucky’s reforms are based on a policy framework developed by the Pew home visiting campaign. Pew’s nationwide survey of home visiting programs found that most states lacked policies that link funding to program effectiveness and that few adequately monitored family outcomes.
The bill had support from Kentucky’s early childhood advocates, state agencies, local health departments who provide home visiting services, and the law enforcement and business communities. Crucial legislative leadership came from the bill’s original sponsor, Senator Sara Beth Gregory, as well as Senators Julie Denton, Alice Forgy Kerr, and Morgan McGarvey, as well as Representatives Tommy Thompson, Tom Burch, Mary Lou Marzian, Robert Bevenuti, and David Watkins.