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September 26, 2012

New resource center open to moms, babies throughout Oakland County

By Robin Ruehlen
C & G Staff Writer

PONTIAC — The steps to raising a healthy child begin well before the baby is born, and a new resource center in Pontiac is dedicated to ensuring pregnant women across Oakland County receive the prenatal and postpartum care so critical to early child development.

Family Focus Health Services opened its doors at the end of April, and owner Chandra Graves is committed to getting the word out to all Oakland County mothers-to-be who are in need.

A mother of two herself, Graves said she took her own prenatal care for granted – consistent, quality medical care, quick access to physicians and educational resources.

“I could just go to the doctor if something was wrong — I didn’t think about what it’s like for people on Medicaid who don’t have these resources,” she said.

“A lot of these young women we deal with don’t know all the ins and outs of the system, and unfortunately, it is difficult, the way things are set up.”

Graves said she wants to empower low-income moms to take ownership of their bodies and their medical care. The center provides registered nurses and licensed social workers who conduct one-on-one home visits to address the specific needs of each client, and works with Medicaid, doctors and local community service agencies to develop a specialized health care plan for mother and baby throughout the child’s first year. The services are free for women on Medicaid.

“If they still need assistance after that, we do have ways to keep working with them and connecting them with the services they need,” Graves said.

Family Focus also works to refer clients to agencies that address issues such as mental health, domestic violence, substance abuse and basic needs assistance. Childbirth education and parenting classes will be offered free of charge starting in October.

So far, the resource center has about 15 clients, but Graves said her goal is to keep growing and eventually involve the entire community.

“Right now we’re focusing on mom and baby, but I’d like it to be a family resource as well, for dads and children and the entire family being assisted.”

For Graves, Family Focus is a truly personal venture. After being laid off from her corporate position last fall, she decided to invest her energy in something that would help the entire community.

“It was one of those turning points in life,” she said.

“I knew this was something I wanted to do — I knew I could help. I really fell in love with it. I figured, you can go back to work in an office, or you could really have a passion for what you do, and that’s what Family Focus is —impacting people’s lives.”

Social worker Ruth Green said she enjoys working with organizations such as Family Focus to help steer those in need in the right direction.

“The help is out there, but if they’re not aware of it or they don’t know who to call, that’s a problem,” she said.

She said was recently able to assist one client in attending Lamaze classes, as well as helping her coordinate food stamp services following the birth of her baby.

“I have another client who is due in November, and she was concerned because she didn’t have transportation to her doctor’s appointments,” Green said.

“Through our agency she found out that her insurance covers that transportation, as well as to the Department of Human Services Office and the WIC (Women, Infants and Children) supplemental nutrition program office.”

Family Focus is located at 67 W. Huron St. in downtown Pontiac, a place that Graves’ husband, Maurice, said the couple chose because it is easily accessible for women who need their services.

“We don’t want it to end here. Eventually we’d like to open offices in Macomb and Wayne counties as well,” she said.

“Every woman deserves to have quality care during pregnancy, and we want to link those who are underserved with the resources they need to ensure healthy pregnancies and healthy babies.”

For more information about Family Focus Health Services or to apply for services, call (248) 499-9851 or email cgraves@familyfo cushealthservices.org. The office is located at 67 W. Huron St. in Pontiac.

You can reach C & G Staff Writer Robin Ruehlen at rruehlen@candgnews.com or at (586)279-1105.