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02/04/13 – Success Can Come from Unexpected Places

by Angela Atkinson

Health Integration Coordinator, Early Childhood Council of La Plata County
Angela Atkinson, Health Integration Coordinator, Early Childhood Council of La Plata County
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With initial funding from The Colorado Trust, the Early Childhood Council of La Plata County established the Community Access and Referral Enrollment System (CARES), a program that offers discounted care to La Plata County residents who cannot afford private health insurance. Originally intended to provide discounted preventive care to young children, CARES has proven to benefit other vulnerable segments of Southwest Colorado's population, the poor, undocumented immigrants and those with few health care options.

Of the 650 people enrolled in the CARES program, nearly half are Hispanic, 40 percent are undocumented and 60 percent are under the poverty level. Many of those served cannot afford health insurance and due to their resident status, have few options for obtaining the care they need to stay healthy and effectively support their families.

Twenty-three Durango providers participate in the CARES program, representing nearly all domains of health care including mental, physical, vision and oral health. In just 16 months, these providers have seen nearly 200 patients and have provided over $37,000 in discounted care. Providers appreciate that participants have been screened by enrolling agencies for income eligibility and feel good that they are doing their part to give back to the community.

The CARES program has an efficient infrastructure and system in place – with a website, brochures, data reporting system, posters and growing recognition in the community. Perhaps most importantly, relationships have been built that connect those most vulnerable in the community with providers who are willing and able to provide the discounted care they so desperately need.

The returns of the CARES program to the Durango community are vast. As a result, a consortium of health partners across La Plata County came together to financially sustain the program. To date, $8,000 has been raised to continue the La Plata CARES program.

As well, this month the Early Childhood Council of La Plata County received two additional years of funding from The Colorado Trust to focus on early childhood social-emotional health.

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