Mountains

Childhood council grant extended

Sam Green/Cortez Journal

Sahara Thurston, Patricia Nelson and Lindsay Havran put the final touches on two of the dolls that will be sent to the Colorado State Legislature for Doll Day Feb. 28. The Montelores Early Childhood Council along with other similar state agencies send the dolls with stories of actual children from their area to show how the state grant money is used.

By Rachel Segura Journal staff writer

The members of the Montelores Early Childhood Council are being recognized once again for their achievements for increasing early childhood development in the community.

In order to continue its growth and awareness, MECC was recently approved for a phase two Colorado Trust Grant for its efforts toward integrative health care.

This grant is awarded to eight early childhood councils from around the state that were initially a part of the Early Childhood Health Integration grant ending Dec. 31. Out of the 20 councils in the first phase of the grant only eight were awarded.

"It was highly competitive," said Vangi McCoy, MECC coordinator. "I think one of the reasons we were chosen is because we are ready to increase our capacity in the community. We have a firm foundation already but we want more people to work with us to be more sustainable."

The amount awarded, $983,639, was divided among the eight councils. MECC will receive $59,000 each year for two years, a total of $118,000, to put toward early health development. McCoy explained that councils could either receive more money in the second phase of the grant or stay the same. MECC will receive $27,000 more each year than the previous grant provided.

With the new funds, the council plans on increasing public awareness on the importance of children's oral health, introducing a health navigation guide for parents with children up to eight years of age, and working with providers and families on how to positively deal with challenging behaviors.

"We are also working on updating our database to track our work - because we are doing good work - but our system just isn't sophisticated enough," McCoy explained. "In tracking that we will be better able to tell the stories of children and families in our community."

MECC plans to put together a committee to work on a framework for the navigation guide. This health guide will act as a reference tool for parents on health care providers, resources for health insurance and a place for immunization files, among other things. More than 112,000 children in Colorado are uninsured, according to the Colorado Trust Grant website. In conjunction with that, many children do not have a primary physician.

MECC is looking at health department employees, child care workers and medical providers, who have knowledge and interest in early childhood health to help develop the navigation guide. Once formulated it will be provided on their website, handed out at preschools and given out at hospitals to parents with newborns.

"We are in the process of forming the baseline of the committee," McCoy explained. "Who we want at our table and evaluating who is at our table is important so we can sustain activities and programs because funding ends. We need to maintain and reach our goals to keep that going."

Also on the agenda is promoting healthy lifestyles within the community through the 5-2-1-0 message. The 5-2-1-0 formula promotes healthy living in children by encouraging kids to eat five servings of fruits and vegetables a day, watch less than two hours of television a day, be physically active for at least one hour a day and aim to drink zero servings of soda, sugar or sports drinks.

The goal is to integrate the program into the community over the next two years.

MECC spends its time raising awareness by offering parent/children activity nights, parenting classes and health fairs to educate families. The Cavity Free at Three event and their annual health fair are two programs MECC participates in annually.

"We really want to push Cavity Free at Three," McCoy said. "Bad oral health contributes to so many other health problems. When a child has a wellness checkup doctors look beyond the teeth. We are working on getting health care providers looking at teeth and referring kids to dentists."

In November 2012, MECC hosted its third annual Cavity Free at Three event where trained providers associated with the statewide program took time to evaluate children's teeth and apply a fluoride varnish. Also written into the new grant, is an extension of that event where health care professionals go to homes and schools to provide the same type of service.

MECC meets the first Monday of the month from 11:45 a.m. to 2 p.m. at the Church of Christ Annex building. These luncheons are open to the public by sending an RSVP to Vangi McCoy at mecc.coordinator@gmail.com or by calling 564-1195.

rachels@cortezjournal.com

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