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Program will allow better access to health care for kids

YAKIMA - Thanks to a federal grant of $850,000 from the Bureau of Primary Health Care, uninsured kids in the Yakima Valley will have better access to health care.

Called "Kids Connect," the program, developed by the Yakima County Department of Community Services, will allow people in area hospitals and health care provider offices throughout the Yakima Valley, called access specialists, to connect parents to primary health care providers, and allow them to apply for medical insurance or Medicade, according to program administrator Dianne Patterson.

The program will also help parents of uninsured kids to navigate the system.

"We want to help families get their kids connected to a regular health care provider," Patterson said.

There are a lot of kids in the Yakima Valley, roughly 11,000, who have no health insurance, Patterson said.

This program will allow parents to find doctors for their children and ways to pay for preventative health procedures, which Patterson said will cut overall costs for the county in the long run.

The program will also help to educate kids and parents on disease prevention and ways to take care of themselves to hopefully prevent the need for an emergency room visit.

"If we can educate, we can get a lot more for our dollar," Patterson said.

The grant money won't be used specifically to pay for health cost procedures.

Sunnyside Community Hospital, along with several other Valley hospitals and organizations that benefit children, have signed on for the program, Patterson said.

"For Sunnyside, they stepped right up to the plate and said they wanted to be a part of it," Patterson said.

Sandra Linde, special projects coordinator for Sunnyside Community Hospital, said the hospital wanted to be connected with the project because it helps the community.

"We want all families to have a medical home," she said.

In addition, she said it is important for the Lower Valley to have a place where people can access the medical care that they need.

"A lot of times, people use the E.R. because they don't know where else to go," Linde said.

On top of that, sometimes people don't know that certain doctors are available in the Lower Valley.

"We don't want people to have to travel to Yakima," Linde said.

And doctors in Yakima don't want people travelling there when they don't need to, she said.

Some non-medical organizations that have signed on include the county itself, and Educational Service District 105, a school-related administrative agency.

Other issues the program will help resolve, Patterson said, include transportation and language barriers.

"Transportation can be an issue; speaking Spanish can be an issue," she said.

Because there's a need for bilingual help in this area, Linde said those who work in the program will be able to speak both Spanish and English, allowing more people to have access to this program.

Patterson said the program's success will be measured by whether the county sees an overall drop in the number of emergency room cases at Yakima County hospitals.

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