MuskogeePhoenix.com, Muskogee, OK

Local News

July 6, 2014

Head Start operator's grant renewed

Provider had to compete for funding this year

After handling county Head Start programs for 16 years, Green Country Behavioral Health Services officials worried whether they would get funding to keep the program.

“Previously, the federal grants just rolled over to the next year,” said Muskogee County Head Start Director Diane Woodard. “This year it was competitive. Anytime it is open for competition, that is a concern.”

Head Start officials heard last week they would get the $3.4 million to help run its eight sites for another year.

“We are thrilled to death,” said Cheryl Nelson, compliance officer for Green Country Behavioral Health Services.

Green Country Behavioral Health Services has been Muskogee County Head Start’s grantee for at least 16 years, Nelson said. Muskogee has four Head Start sites, including an Early Head Start site for children 6 weeks to 3 years of age. The federal program, geared to helping children from low-income families prepare for school, also operates sites in Fort Gibson, Braggs, Warner and Haskell.

The federal grant is Head Start’s primary source of funding, Nelson said.

Head Start will have a total funded enrollment of 337 kids, including 112 in Early Head Start, she said.

A new program this year is Birth to Five Head Start, which helps kids move from Early Head Start to the older group, she said.

“When a child turns 3, the child can stay in Early Head Start a little longer until the child can transition to Head Start,” Nelson said. “We also serve pregnant women in the Early Head Start component of our program.”

Enrollment for Head Start runs until its school year opens Aug. 13, Nelson said. Enrollment for Early Head Start continues year-round. Enrollment forms are available at Head Start’s Youth Central campus, 301 N. Sixth St.

Nelson said the $3.4 million grant is Muskogee County Head Start’s primary source of funding and must be renewed each year.

She said she did not know how many other applicants GCBH was up against in requesting the grants.

“This year, they had some pretty tough requirements for the grant cycle,” she said. “This year was a more formal process. There were more stipulations in the proposal. It was a more formal proposal.”

In her Head Start grant application, Nelson said the program works with school systems in Muskogee, Fort Gibson, Braggs, Warner and Haskell, as well as local child-care providers.

“As a response to our county’s extremely poor health outcomes, all MCHS families now have access to affordable health care through the Muskogee Health Center, located at the grantee facility,” according to the application.

“When the regional staff visited us, they went to the Fort Gibson site,” Nelson said. “Not only did it have Head Start, but Early Head Start.”

Nelson said the grant will be allocated across the program and help pay for salaries, programs and transportation. She said she did not yet know how the money would be allocated for each site.

Reach Cathy Spaulding at (918) 684-2928 or cspaulding@muskogeephoenix.com.

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