Children's Defense Fund announces project to improve health care access for East Texas children

Published on Tuesday, 21 February 2017 16:18 - Written by EMILY GUEVARA,

About 30 community leaders in health care, education and nonprofit agencies met Tuesday in Tyler to learn about a new initiative to improve the health of East Texas children.

The Children’s Defense Fund–Texas has launched Healthy Children = Healthy Communities in Smith, Shelby and Nacogdoches counties.

The project is designed to connect children to affordable health care options such as Medicaid and CHIP (Children’s Health Insurance Program).

Almost 16 percent, or 8,500, of Smith County children, are uninsured, according to information provided by the nonprofit organization.

Research shows children living in rural areas and Hispanic children are among those children most likely to remain uninsured.

Through partnerships with existing entities, the Children’s Defense Fund aims to connect with people whose children might need health insurance.

Once connected, they help register those children for certain health insurance programs, if they qualify, and refer them to other available resources that might be beneficial to them.

The nonprofit agency has been working in East Texas since the fall, hiring caseworkers and connecting with local organizations.

Federal and private funding, the latter from the Episcopal Health Foundation, is supporting the organization’s work in East Texas.

The nonprofit organization has two staff members in Smith County and one each in Shelby and Nacogdoches counties. In addition, several community health interns are working with the organization.

The Children’s Defense Fund-Texas also has programs in Houston and the Rio Grande Valley.

Some of the agencies represented at Tuesday’s meeting include the city of Tyler, Tyler ISD, The University of Texas at Tyler, UT Health Northeast, Catholic Charities of East Texas, St. Paul Children’s Foundation, Champions for Children, East Texas Food Bank, Family Circle of Care, Andrews Center, Bullard ISD, East Texas Human Needs Network and many insurance providers.