Information Possibly Outdated
The information presented on this page was originally released on September 15, 2011. It may not be outdated, but please search our site for more current information. If you plan to quote or reference this information in a publication, please check with the Extension specialist or author before proceeding.
New clinic helps uninsured children
By Kaitlyn Byrne
MSU Office of Ag Communications
PONTOTOC – A partnership between a nonprofit medical treatment group and the Mississippi State University Extension Service has opened up health care options for uninsured children in Pontotoc County.
Catch Kids is a nonprofit organization that makes quality healthcare possible for children without health insurance. There are 15 Catch Kids clinics. They are in Chickasaw County, Lee County and now Pontotoc County.
Valerie Long, the executive director of Catch Kids, said the need for local, affordable healthcare has been a serious problem in the state.
“The need was first noticed by an area pediatrician and a group of concerned citizens in 1997,” Long said. “They noticed a big gap in the number of children living in the community and the number of children they actually treated. They obtained a grant to study this and discovered a huge lack of accessibility to quality healthcare.”
While conducting research on nonprofit healthcare programs, local physicians found a successful program in Kentucky and decided to replicate it in Lee County, Long said. Long said the first clinic was school-based, and school nurses helped identify the children who required care beyond the school nurses’ expertise.
By 1999, the first community-based clinic was in operation.
“By that time, we still had the school clinic, and we had the community clinic on Mondays from 5 to 7 p.m.,” Long said. “It had become apparent that we needed to expand to more than just the school clinic because of the large number of children who needed our services.”
Long said the clinics rely on local doctors to volunteer time to examine children at the Catch Kids Clinics. Partnerships with local pharmacies allow the children to receive prescribed medication at no cost.
“The clinics are just like any regular clinic, but the unique premise of our clinics is that healthcare professionals volunteer their time to see the children,” Long said. “If the doctors prescribe medication for the children, they can get it for free, thanks to our partnerships with some of the pharmacies. There’s literally no cost for the kids who come to the clinics.”
Pontotoc County is now home to the newest addition to the Catch Kids Clinics network.
Rick Ferguson, Mississippi State University Pontotoc County Extension director, said the Catch Kids program contacted the Extension Service for assistance in establishing a clinic in Pontotoc County.
“We partnered with the Pontotoc County Fair Association and secured the building, so we provide the facility for the clinic,” Ferguson said. “We also help solicit volunteers and help promote the Catch Kids program through the local schools.”
In addition to free healthcare, Ferguson said the clinic staff helps parents file the necessary paperwork for programs like Medicare and CHIPS.
“Our goal is to find these kids a medical home,” Ferguson said. “We don’t mind seeing the same kids more than once at the clinic, but we help them get the paperwork filled out for Medicare and CHIPS because we want them to find a permanent provider of medical services.”