Sign-ups underway in region

The staff of Children & Families of Iowa is trying to enroll about 1,000 young people throughout the Fort Dodge region in a new free health care program that begins Tuesday.

The program is for children who are recipients of Medicaid, the federal-state insurance program for low-income people, and have behavioral or mental health care needs, according to Jamie Ferguson, who is the Pediatric-Integrated Health Home program supervisor at the Fort Dodge office of Children & Families of Iowa.

Despite its name, the Pediatric-Integrated Health Home isn’t a building. It’s an approach to care that provides families with a team of professionals that works together to meet the needs of children, according to program leaders.

“I want people to know that they’re not alone,” Ferguson said. “There’s help and support available for them.”

Although the program launches on Tuesday, families can sign up for it at any time. However, Ferguson said she encourages people to sign up as quickly as possible.

“The sooner we can get them in, the sooner we can make sure that all their needs are being met,” she said.

The roughly 1,000 area children are in Calhoun, Humboldt, Kossuth, Pocahontas, Webster and Wright counties. Hamilton County will come into the program on July 1, and Ferguson said families there can also contact her to start the enrollment process.

The program is voluntary.

Letters and postcards have been sent to eligible families.

Ferguson said the program works in partnership with local medical professionals, dentists, therapists and school districts to ensure that all needs of the child are met.

The Pediatric-Integrated Health Home program has already started in some parts of Iowa. Pat Cirks, the regional director of Children & Families of Iowa, said some ”statistically significant results” have already been observed in those areas. She said children in the program have improved their school attendance and their parents are missing fewer days at work.