Head Start parents gather for new child health program kick-off

Friday, May 8, 2009 | 7:02 p.m. CDT
A diverse group of parents and guests from Head Start centers in eight counties in mid-Missouri gathered for the "I CAN Help My Child Stay Healthy" training Thursday. The training is designed to empower parents to better utilize the health care system and decrease unnecessary ER and clinic visits. Parents described the event as fun and engaging. Mernell King, Head Start director for the program, said the event is useful to show parents the importance of learning more about basic health care. "When you get 500 people in a room you think, well, maybe it is a big deal," King said.

COLUMBIA — For Mandy Weakley, the most frustrating part of calling the emergency room about her son's breathing problems is being put on hold for what seems like forever. While emergency room care in mid-Missouri is reasonably quick compared to urban areas, it is still costly, inconvenient and especially frustrating when it could have been prevented.

"Sometimes it's very minor and you just feel like an idiot for sitting there all day," said Mernell King, Head Start director for the Central Missouri Community Action.  King said the effects of emergency room visits go beyond the obvious — the bills. 

For more information

For more information about "I CAN" or to get involved in the training, go to the project's Web site or call Trisha Wright at 443-8706 ext. 292.

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"With the economy the way it is, a missed day of work can mean a loss of a job," she said.

Community Action, a nonprofit agency, is managing a new program, "I CAN Help My Child Stay Healthy," to promote early health intervention and cut down on unnecessary emergency room visits.  The aim is to help parents learn when and how to take care of a child's health problem themselves, and when to go to a doctor. Community Action plans to offer the program to 1,500 families in Missouri by the end of the year and 8,000 families across the nation within three years.

The first mid-Missouri program drew nearly 450 parents and other family members to the hall of Knights of Columbus in Columbia on Thursday.  Parents were recruited from 16 different Head Start centers from eight mid-Missouri counties. 

One of the parents, Latreece Patterson, a mother of three from Worley Head Start, said she took her son to the emergency room for a virus just last week. She said that not missing work or school and saving money were among the most important issues  that programs like "I CAN" could address for her community.

King said events like Thursday's help get parents excited about talking about health.

"When you get 500 people in a room, you think well maybe it is a big deal that I do this," she said.

The training was designed to be fun and engaging for a diverse group of parents. Two visual presentations — one in Spanish, one in English — were projected on each side of a podium covered in prizes. Board games, baby care products and other goodies were awarded to audience members for answering questions correctly.

Darin Preis, executive director of Community Action, pumped up the crowd, saying: "We're here to beat the health care system and to stay ahead of (it)."

That brought a wave of cheers and applause.

For Patterson and many other parents, the best part of the training was the book, "What to do when your child gets sick." Each parent was given a copy to take home. The book was also used during the training to help parents find information on a variety of health topics, such as how to recognize a rash and correctly take a child's temperature.

Trisha Wright, "I CAN" administrative assistant with Community Action, said the main value of the "I CAN" program will come in the follow-up sessions each month for the next three months at the home of each family.  Wright said that it is in the follow-ups where the message really starts to stick.

King said she expects to gain hard data from the "I CAN" event and follow-up program to see the effect on Medicaid dollar savings in Missouri.

"The real work happens after the training," she said.


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Ray Shapiro May 9, 2009 | 12:22 a.m.

(" to recognize a rash and correctly take a child's temperature. King said she expects to gain hard data from the "I CAN" event and follow-up program to see the effect on Medicaid dollar savings in Missouri.")
Must be a lot of dumb parents out there.
Doesn't anyone learn the basics from mom and dad, the grandparents, aunts, school, the library, the internet, older sisters, other parents or from church elders?
How many people in that photograph above are willing to admit that they do not know how to use a fever strip thermometer on the forehead of a child and read the number illuminated and that 98.6 is the norm? (Also, usually, if it looks like a rash, it is a rash, unless it's a ketchup smear.)
How many people attending that "kick-off" are actually paid staff from Head Starts, CMCA's, staffers from other health & human care service agencies and government/political venues?
Any parent who needs a class on how to place a fever strip on their child's forehead or the difference between a teaspoon and a soupspoon, (aka: tablespoon), to give a kid cough medicine, has been putting their child at risk since the get-go.
If you think these same parents are going to stop using "free medicaid paid emergency room visits" every time their precous little darlings have a runny nose, Head Start and CMCA are mistaken.
If they weren't able to "master" this basic stuff by now, government paid classes aren't going to fix their brains.
Who's allowing these incompetent mothers to keep their children in harms way to begin with?
Maybe Head Start and CMCA should hold on to the kids until and only if, any of these "students" pass.
I thought Douglass High School and maybe grandparents, were supposed to take care of "teaching" this common sense "basic stuff."
What's next? Classes on how to get pregnant for dummies?

(Report Comment)
Darin Preis May 11, 2009 | 9:12 p.m.

Mr. Shapiro,
Thank you so much for voicing the exact sentiment we use at CMCA to represent those that do not understand the intracacies of the crises of poverty. If there were simple solutions to this crises, we wouldn't have to spend your tax dollars addressing it. However, our society generally chooses to sweep the issue of poverty under the rug instead of facing it head on. We don't find that an acceptable response and certainly wouldn't sit back and waste our time blaming the causes of poverty. Instead we choose to tackle health care issues, education issues, employment issues, housing, basic needs, etc. because we believe in people. Sometimes it takes more than one chance, sometimes it takes several chances but we believe that people want to do good things for themselves and their family and we have seen time after time evidence that this is the case. For as long as I work for CMCA, we'll continue offering people opportunities to set goals for themselves and meet them. Ultimately, regardless of why someone finds themselves struggling with poverty I think we can all agree that we'd prefer that they were not using tax resources but rather were contributing back to the community as productive citizens. I'm going to do something to try to make that happen. If you'd like to help, call me at 443-8706. We'd love your support.
-Darin Preis

(Report Comment)
Ray Shapiro May 12, 2009 | 2:15 p.m.

@Darin Preis:
I know you're heart is in the right place and I too do what I can to help my neighbor.
However, being poor and being stupid are two different things.
You can always give people more money, but you can't fix stupid.
The library has a wealth of books on the many challenges of being a parent.
A library card is about 25 cents.
If your clients don't have 25 cents, I'll loan them the 25 cents.
That is, of course, if they know how to read.
And if they don't know how to read, I would volunteer to spend some time with poor, illiterate mommies so that they can understand the directions on a cough syrup bottle and not poison their precious little babies.
That is, of course, if they can understand my outrage of one's choice to breed without the ability to read.

(Report Comment)
Christopher Foote May 12, 2009 | 2:44 p.m.

Hey Ray your self imposed exile lasted about 24 hours, has the Missourian changed its policy or were you just full of it...again.

(Report Comment)
Ray Shapiro May 12, 2009 | 3:07 p.m.

AT Heist:
I would have stayed away much longer and spared you lots of "it," but if you read my reason for leaving and the recent article on the Ramada Inn robbery, any one with half a brain should be able to figure out that I too had an obligation to return.
(Nice first post as AT Heist, Jacko.)

(Report Comment)

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