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Cumberland Smart Start Reaching Kids with Health Care

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FAYETTEVILLE — About 9,000 children under the age of six in Cumberland County have no health insurance, so Smart Start is teaming up with a Fayetteville hospital to provide health services to them. As part of its strategic planning process in Cumberland County, Smart Start identified a need for a child resource line, and took steps to meet that need.

A 24 hour health line called CareLink already exists through Cape Fear Valley Health Systems. Now, Smart Start is providing the service with more funding to focus on childrens health issues.

The registered nurses at CareLink stay busy and the 24-hour medical hotline answers about 8,500 calls a month. Many of the calls are from parents who don't know how to treat their child's illness or injury.

"It runs the gamut from fevers to chicken pox to a child who fell and hit his head on the coffee table to sports injuries," says CareLink Supervisor Linda Cooper.

In a recent study done by Smart Start, 34 percent of those polled in Cumberland County say their children receive primary care through an emergency room and some receive no medical care at all. By providing a financial grant to CareLink, Smart Start hopes to improve those numbers and also to refer parents to physicians.

"We feel like providing that information to parents and caregivers, they will make a more informed decision and hopefully better childcare and medical care down the road," says Dr. Don Phipps of Smart Start's research and development area.

Smart Start says it will start an advertising campaign to make parents aware of the 24 hour hotline. Parents such as Ann Vasser, who has a daughter with asthma, says she will take advantage of it.

"They can tell me what I need to do because sometimes I panic like she does because when she cant breathe its upsets me, I try to get her to the ER as fast as I can," says Vasser.

The number of calls is expected to increase dramatically. Care Link says it will use the grant money to add more work stations and employees.


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