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DHS news release

August 30, 2004

Contact: Jim Sellers (503) 945-5738; Don Lindly, Lincoln County Commissioner (541) 265-4100; Rene DuBoise, DHS manager, Hood River County (541) 298-4961

 

Lincoln, Hood River counties selected for insurance-outreach pilot


Today two counties were designated to participate in a pilot outreach project announced by Gov. Ted Kulongoski in July to expand access to health care for uninsured children.

Hood River and Lincoln counties were identified by the Oregon Department of Human Services (DHS) -- the state partner in this project -- to participate as the pilot sites partly because of their relatively high levels of uninsured children and unemployed adults.

Under the Governor's initiative, more than 1,500 children from Hood River and Lincoln may be eligible for state health-care programs.

"One of my top priorities for Oregon is to ensure all children have access to basic physical and mental health care," said Governor Kulongoski. "This pilot project is an important first step in our efforts to meet this goal and will help us identify the most-effective ways to collaborate between state and local agencies."

Hood River and Lincoln counties are ideal for pilot sites in part because both have local coalitions that are poised to support the outreach effort as part of the Governor's Kid Care initiative, and have health-care networks in place that can assist in reaching the children who currently do not have health care insurance.

For example, Lincoln County's Newport, Taft, Toledo and Waldport high schools all have student health clinics on their campuses, he said, and the county is the beneficiary of a foundation-supported Covering Kids and Families project. And Hood River County has a supportive community coalition, the La Clinica del Carino health center as well as the county health department.

DHS Director Gary Weeks said his agency is working with local coalitions in both counties to distribute letters and brochures to low-income families, train local personnel who visit families of school children and undertaking other initiatives to tell potentially eligible households about available health-care coverage.

Weeks said these will be community-wide efforts involving not only DHS but also schools, county health departments, safety-net clinics, physicians and hospitals, pharmacies, faith communities, child-care centers, food banks and others.

In both counties, Weeks said, 48 percent of children and teens live in households with incomes below 200 percent of the federal poverty level, or below $2,612 a month for a family of three. One in five children is uninsured in both counties.

Weeks said the state has a variety of programs through the Oregon Health Plan to insure children, and that DHS workers will review applications to ensure that people are assigned to any program for which they are eligible.

For example, children and teens may qualify for one part of the Health Plan even though their parents do not, and some low-income households may qualify for government-supported assistance to pay health-insurance premiums.