Ravens aiding health effort

Boulware to discuss insurance program

Free or low-cost coverage

1,800 county children enrolled since 1999 Carroll County

August 05, 2002|By Athima Chansanchai | Athima Chansanchai,SUN STAFF

Baltimore Ravens linebacker Peter Boulware will break from training at McDaniel College tomorrow to urge uninsured Carroll County families to enroll in a low-cost or free health insurance program.

Boulware, a spokesman for the Covering Kids & Families Coalition, will take a few minutes at a junior football training camp to encourage local families to participate in the Maryland Children Health Program, which covers the cost of doctors' visits, hospitalization and prescriptions.

"We want to make sure we're reaching those families that would be eligible," said Linda Reynolds-Wise, the health program's director. "There's no sense in going without coverage if we can provide it to them."

As part of the program's annual back-to-school drive, Reynolds-Wise and her staff will be at the junior training camp - for children whose families have coverage - next to the Ravens' field to answer questions and enroll prospective children from 9 a.m. to 11 a.m.

More than 1,800 children in Carroll County have been enrolled in the program since its inception in 1999, according to the Maryland Department of Health and Mental Hygiene. Organizers believe as many as 77,000 children statewide have no health insurance coverage.

Under the program, families of four with an income up to $54,000 a year are eligible for free or low-cost services, depending on income.

"Parents that don't have health care coverage delay taking their kids to the doctor and tend to use the emergency room rather than preventative doctor's visits," Reynolds-Wise said.

That lack of coverage causes children to suffer needlessly in school - they often don't hear teachers, see the blackboard or are too sick to concentrate. "These things are keeping kids from learning," she said.

This summer, the Maryland Children's Health Program received four more years of funding from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation.

The coalition consists of the University of Maryland, Baltimore, public health workers, advocacy groups and now, collaboration with the Baltimore Ravens.

"So many families are keeping their kids out of sports because they don't want them to get injured. It creates a snowball effect," said Kim Hill, the account executive for the Ravens Radio Network who is working with Reynolds-Wise to use the Ravens' celebrity power to draw more people to the program.

Hill said that Boulware's background - his parents were physicians - made him a natural choice as the voice (public service announcements will play on the Ravens Radio Network during game days) and group spokesman.

"To give this program some punch, we needed to have a player behind it," Hill said. "Peter understands how important health care is."

Since the program began, nearly 100,000 children have received health care coverage, Reynolds-Wise said.

A busload of 100 of those children and family members from the Baltimore area will attend the junior football training camp.

Families that can't make it to the signup can call 800-456-8900 or contact the local health department to arrange enrollment.

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