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Knocking on doors, keeping kids healthy

This innovative community health program is geared toward informing parents on the available social services for families
This Friday, June 22, Crook County Health Department will hit the streets in their mobile medical unit to provide area children and families with health care screenings and referrals to social service and health care organizations.
   The first destination for the mobile medical unit will be the Dunaway Park neighborhood located off Lynn Blvd. Public health nurses along with police personnel will be knocking on doors, to offer information and assistance where needed.
   This week's effort is part of the Kid's First Program which is geared toward providing free health care services to families who might otherwise go without.
   In addition to offering free child health examinations and immunizations, they will offer treatment for minor illnesses as well as education on symptoms and other family health issues.
   "We'll eventually be able to have a nurse practitoner who will provide well and sick child screenings," explained Wendy Swain, Administrator Crook County Health Department. "For this first run, we'll have a registered nurse on board who will be doing immunizations and making referrals. Hopefully as the program develops we'll be able to provide even more services."
   Circuit Court Judge Nielson along with Judge Ahern are credited with bringing to the attention of community and health service organizations in both Jefferson and Crook County the Kids First concept, which originated in Reno, Nevada.
   The Reno program, Kids Korner, is described as a partnership of law enforcement, public health and social service agencies.
   Kids Korner strives to assist low-income children and families to help ensure that all children, regardless of economic circumstances have the opportunity to lead healthy and productive lives.
   This innovative "Knock-and-Talk" program in which police officers visit and check on the welfare of children living in the area helps provide families with access to resources in the community.
   A public health nurse accompanies a police officer to offer on-the-spot health and social assessments of the families, "well-baby" checkups, and immediate medical referrals. The nurse also provides education on hygiene, nutrition, child development, parenting skills, and the effects of drugs and alcohol.
   Encouraged by the success of the program in Nevada, a group of health care and community service folks traveled to Reno earlier this year to find out how to implement a similar program here in Crook County.
   "The idea behind it is to decrease child abuse and neglect, increase immunization and access to health care, and provide referrals for community services," Swain explained. "We hope to get people referred to primary care physicians and linked up with Oregon Health Plan if they don't already have insurance. Accompanied by a police officer in uniform, we're going to be knocking on doors to let them know what is available."
   Similar to its sister program in Reno, Kids First will be targeting areas in the community that are considered most at-risk for not having access to medical care and services.
   Over the next several months the mobile medical unit will be traveling to neighborhoods all across Prineville to provide services to families, focusing primarily on children.
   Swain indicated that a growing partnership of organizations are teaming up to provide the service with the hopes that at a later date there may be some grant funds available for the program. "Right now, we'll be working out of our existing budgets _ just to get the program going," she said. "We're hoping that as we go along, other organizations will partner with us to help provide needed services."