Getting by with a little help

Healthy Families Program Offers New Parents Source of Comfort, Hope

In rural Crawford, Washington and Harrison Counties, single parents and poverty rank especially high. With 2,547 single parents in the tri-county area in 2016 and 6,812 food stamp recipients in 2017, the area also is known for its continuing drug epidemic.

Just ask Crystal Hess, a single mother who struggled with drug addiction for many years.

With the help of Healthy Families, though, Hess has become a nurturing mother, wife, homeowner and restaurant manager. The state-funded program, offered by Blue River Services, Inc. in Harrison, Washington and Crawford Counties, offers new and expectant parents free, voluntary and confidential assistance. Hess successfully graduated from the program in January 2018.

A Family Support Specialist, who helps parents like Hess cope with stress, identify needs and build on strengths, can even help families with parenting skills and developing goals. The ongoing services also include screening for post-partum depression, a grave condition affecting Hess, along with 600,000 other women in the United States annually, according to the Centers for Disease Control. With referrals to community resources and doctors, and developmental in-home assessments, Hess and her son also began receiving services through First Steps after Healthy Families staff identified a developmental delay. Her son received in-home speech and language therapy through First Steps, and at 3-years-old, he is now eligible to participate in an Exceptional Learners program at North Harrison Elementary.

Hess speaks publicly about her experience, shedding light on the dark side of motherhood -- a world of debilitating depression, uncertainty and isolation. And she credits Healthy Families for her newfound success, in addition to the agency’s WIC and First Steps programs, which also are designed to help new moms and their children.

“Parenting is one of the hardest jobs anyone can have, but it is also the most important and rewarding,” said Jennifer Owens, Director of Family Services at Blue River Services, Inc. “We want parents to know that they are not alone. Healthy Families is here to support them in their new role as a parent, no matter the challenges they may face. That’s how Healthy Families is building strong families.”

It seems undeniable that the program is an important one – for the community and its members. However, Owens says many people still aren’t aware of the services available to them.

If you or someone you know could benefit from these services, please call the Program Manager, Denise Griffiths, directly at 812-738-0392.

Blue River Services also is in need of people who are passionate about making a difference in the lives of families and children. The program has positions open for a Family Support Specialist, and anyone interested can send an email to Denise Griffiths at or call Human Resources at 812-738-0776.

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