NEWARK – Newborns and their mothers in New Jersey can receive up to three at-home, no-cost visits from nurses under a law enacted Thursday aimed at improving maternal and infant health in the state.

New Jersey joins Oregon as the only states with universal newborn home visitation programs. In it, a registered nurse will visit within two weeks of a birth, and the program will also serve adoptive and resource parents and families that experience stillbirths.

The program will be at no cost to the family. The law provides $2.75 million to begin funding the program, which Gov. Phil Murphy said will expand slowly until eventually being available for all of the roughly 100,000 births a year in the state.

“Fifty-two percent of maternal deaths occur in the postpartum period,” said First Lady Tammy Murphy. “And of those, it’s estimated that two-thirds are preventable.”

Gov. Phil Murphy said the new law will help make New Jersey a good state in which to start and raise a family for all, including minority populations that experience more postpartum health problems.

“Last month, you may have seen we were ranked as the best state in America in which to live. Our goal is to ensure that every community rests comfortably under that banner,” Murphy said.

Home visits will feature an evaluation of the physical, emotional and social factors affecting parents and their newborn including physical and mental health wellness checks, breastfeeding support and a review of what are known as social determinants of health – things like food security, transportation access, childcare planning and employment.

“And in New Jersey, we’ve been lucky because unlike other states, we actually do have a pretty robust home visiting network that’s been in operation for a number of years, probably a decade,” said Children & Families Commissioner Christine Norbut Beyer. “The problem is that it’s served so few women in that it’s probably less than 10% of the births in the state are served by our current home visiting network.”

The program would be voluntary. At least one visit by a registered or advanced practice nurse would take place within two weeks of the baby’s birth, with the opportunity for two additional visits over the next three months.

“Mothers and families, you are not alone now,” said Assemblywoman Shanique Speight, D-Essex. “It’s resources out here. It’s nurses that will come out and provide resources, breastfeeding options. You don’t have to do it by yourself. The state is here for you. We are here for you. Nurses are here for you.”

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“The vision for me was to always have this in 10, 15 years from now, the same way we go to the ob-gyn to get that first 3D image of the baby, that this post-partum visit becomes a normalcy that no one will think is something extraordinary but is something that is expected,” said Sen. Teresa Ruiz, D-Essex.

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