Area Health Tracks program aiming for more awareness, participantsParticipation in northeast North Dakota’s Health Tracks program is steady, but the professionals who implement it want more.
By: Lisa Gibson, Grand Forks Herald
Participation in northeast North Dakota’s Health Tracks program is steady, but the professionals who implement it want more.
Health Tracks offers free health screenings for newborns to 21-year-olds who qualify for Medicaid in North Dakota. The services are conducted nationwide under Medicaid’s umbrella, usually administered through state departments of Human Services.
“Our goal is to provide as many screenings as we can,” says Laurie Santangelo, North Dakota Northeast Regional Health Tracks coordinator.
Operating on the basis that no child should slip through the cracks, Health Tracks provides hearing, vision, dental and orthodontic screenings, as well as dental fluoride and varnish treatments, and even immunizations and nutrition information. The program not only focuses on the physical health of the children it serves, but also on developmental and mental health.
“We provide a comprehensive, thorough screening for children,” Santangelo says. Santangelo administers the screenings in Nelson, Walsh, Griggs, Grand Forks and Steele counties with Danielle Kovarik, a registered nurse. Pembina and Traill counties fall under Santangelo’s umbrella, but administer their own screenings. Steele County also will conduct its own screenings, beginning this year, she says.
“We really try to provide support to the other counties doing their own,” she says. “They all work very hard at providing the screenings.”
If the screening yields a red flag, Santangelo and Kovarik will refer the child to his or her primary care provider. Santangelo emphasizes that Health Tracks is nevera replacement for primary care provider visits.
“We area supplement to that,” she says.
Likewise, if a child is suspected to have a developmental delay, such as a speech problem, he or she can be referred to programs such as Right Track, a North Dakota early intervention program free of charge to all children from birth to 3years old.
“I refer children often to the Right Tracks program,” Santangelo says.
Health Tracks also works closely with Head Start, assisting in fall screenings.
Minnesota’s Medicaid screening program for children up to age 21 is called Child and Teen Checkups (C&TC). In Minnesota, developmental and social emotional screenings are not mandated through the program, but some counties opt to conduct them anyway, according to Shawn Holmes, coordinator of the Follow Along early intervention program for the Minnesota Department of Health.
The state is, however, evaluating its periodicity schedule to incorporate such evaluations in its C&TC program.
Follow Along, similar to North Dakota’s Right Track, does developmental and social emotional screenings for children up to 3. But Follow Along conducts checkups past age 3 in some counties, depending on population and the county’s service capabilities, Holmes says.
In 2012, North Dakota’s Health Tracks program conducted about 500 screenings in Nelson, Walsh, Griggs, Grand Forks and Steele counties, Santangelo says. That’s comparable to past years, but she would like to see the program grow.
“All families enrolled in North Dakota medical assistance are encouraged to participate,” she says.
The youngest child she’s seen in the Health Tracks program was seven weeks old. She sees plenty of teenagers, she says, many up to 18 and on occasion, 19 or 20.
Santangelo is working to promote the program to increase awareness and bring in more children who can benefit from the early screenings.
Santangelo is passionate about Health Tracks, with a focus on the children and their needs.
“We really believe in the program,” she says.
Copyright 2013, Grand Forks Herald.