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Wed, June 26

Yavapai County gets nearly $3M First Things First grant

Courtesy photo<br>
Nadine Mathis Basha, president of the First Things First State Board, center, presents the Yavapai Region’s check to Prescott Mayor Jack Wilson; Dr. Eugene Thompson, Yavapai Region’s representative to the state board; Becky Ruffner, Yavapai Regional Partnership Council member; and Lora Lee Nye, Prescott Valley Town Council member.

Courtesy photo<br> Nadine Mathis Basha, president of the First Things First State Board, center, presents the Yavapai Region’s check to Prescott Mayor Jack Wilson; Dr. Eugene Thompson, Yavapai Region’s representative to the state board; Becky Ruffner, Yavapai Regional Partnership Council member; and Lora Lee Nye, Prescott Valley Town Council member.

Children 5 and younger living in Yavapai County will be healthier and safer when they start school thanks to a nearly $3 million grant from First Things First to Yavapai County Monday.

Voters approved the First Things First proposition in 2006. The program diverts money from the sale of tobacco to help pay for the health, education and safety of children from birth to 5 years old, said Marcia Jacobson, regional coordinator of the Yavapai Region Partnership Council.

The council is has 11 volunteers who oversee the spending of the money.

The money has one goal, Jacobson said: "To ensure that when (children) enter kindergarten, they're ready to learn."

Yavapai County is getting a total of $2.8 million, Jacobson said - $2,148,151 as part of its grant plus a recently approved $708,000 adjustment for being a rural area.

"This is new funding that has not been in this area in the past, so it's significant," Jacobson said.

It will help low income and poor working families most immediately by providing scholarships for child care.

"That's a huge issue right now," Jacobson said.

Some of the money also will go towards helping parents get the information they need so they can be as good a parent as they can be, she added.

The council began planning for the money in August 2008 by studying the county's needs.

Yavapai County has about 12,730 children ranging in age from birth to 5 years old, the study showed. Many babies are born to at-risk mothers because of the mother's youth, lack of adequate prenatal care, poor education and low economic status.

The percentage of births to teen moms in Yavapai County has averaged 14 percent for the past five years, which is more than the state average of 12 percent.

In Yavapai County in 2006, public money paid for 64 percent of the births. That's greater than the statewide average of 54 percent, the study showed.

In families with children younger than 5, 26 percent live in poverty.

Because Yavapai County has too few quality early care and education programs, money from the First Things First program also will go towards that.

For example, only six early care and education programs in the county are accredited, or only 7.7 percent of total licensed/registered centers. Statewide, 22 percent of such centers are accredited.

For more information on the First Things First program, visit its website at www.azftf.gov or contact Jacobson at 776-0062.

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