By DENISE DICK
VINDICATOR TRUMBULL STAFF
WARREN -- Mothers of newborns in Trumbull County can get free home visits from a nurse, but many don't take advantage of the program.
Help Me Grow started through the Trumbull County Health Department in July 1999, providing free home visits by a nurse to mothers and their newborn children.
Residents of Warren, Niles and Girard may schedule appointments through their respective city health departments.
Appointments also may be made through the county health department.
Last year, nurses made 434 home visits.
"We could do a lot more," said Selene Layton, director of nursing for the county health department.
Misconceptions: One of the reasons for the lack of usage may be people's misconceptions about who's eligible for the service.
"People think it's strictly for lower income residents and that's not what it is at all," said Terry Merrick, director of nursing at Girard Health Department.
The program used to be restricted to first-time and teen-age mothers, but it was expanded to all mothers of newborns last year.
Newborns Infants are considered newborn through six weeks.
There are no income restrictions.
"The best part is there's no cost," said Nancy Pizor, public health nurse with the county.
The county health department receives lists of new mothers from area hospitals and sends them information about the program.
The program also works with area pediatricians, but the mothers may schedule their own appointments.
"They don't have to be referred to us by a doctor," Layton said.
Layton also stresses that the nurses' visits aren't a substitute for regular care with a pediatrician.
Help Me Grow is funded through the Ohio Department of Health and administered by the county Family and Children First Council and Trumbull County Mental Retardation and Developmental Disabilities.
The visits: "We check to see how things are going with them and talk about any concerns they may have," said Lynn Larentzos, director of nursing at the Warren City Health Department. "We stay for as long as necessary."
The nurses bring a gift pack, including a book and video describing baby's first year, a mug, pink or blue teddy bear and information about the programs offered through the health departments.
"We can answer questions that the mothers don't feel are important enough to call their doctor about," Pizor said.
If the nurses discover a problem, they suggest the women make an appointment with their pediatrician.
"Sometimes, we call the pediatrician right there," Larentzos said.
Spreading the word: Although not as many people take advantage of the program as it can accommodate, Larentzos said information about the program is starting to spread by word of mouth.
Nurses from the county department even venture into the Amish community for the home visits.
"We've established ties in the Amish community through our immunization clinic there," Layton said.
The nurses leave information about the other programs available through the health departments with the mothers.
"It's a nice way of letting people know what kinds of services are available to them," said Cheryl Strouthe, public health nurse at the Warren health department.