Joey Gomez

Efforts by the Edinburg School District are having a huge impact on medical coverage that guarantees students will be in school on a regular basis, according to child care advocates.

The Children’s Defense Fund of the Rio Grande Valley has announced that in the last three years ECISD has had the largest decrease of uninsured children in the Valley.

ECISD went from having a 40 percent uninsured rate of students in 2005 to 22.3 percent in 2008, according to the CDF, which organizes various outreach programs across the Valley to ensure children’s well being by being medically insured.

“The correlation is that if you have healthy students in the classroom you are going to have better academic achievement, and better attendance increases revenue for the districts,” said CDF executive director Luisa Saenz following her presentation to the School Board on Tuesday Dec. 9.

The School District currently has a 98 percent attendance rate. The CDF is currently working with 15 school districts in Hidalgo County.

ECISD implemented the program in all its aspects, according to Saenz.The first step is to identify uninsured children, and the second is to train staff and parent volunteers with the application process.

A third aspect involves children who may qualify for CHIP or Children’s Medicaid. In that case, staff contacts parents and has them register the children in a local community clinic. This will be their “medical home” for checkups, and in the event of illness are already registered and more likely to get an appointment, according to Saenz.

“CHIP and Children’s Medicaid application is not easy, we help the parents overcome the hurdles, make sure they get the coverage and remind them to renew the coverage so that the children have continuous care,” Saenz said.

The District has caught the eye of other districts statewide. Superintendents of the 34 largest districts in Texas will meet in the Valley next month at which CDF will showcase the success its “Insure-A-Kid” school outreach program at Edinburg CISD.

“Obviously if they are healthy the likelihood of them attending classes everyday, they have a better chance of that as opposed to children who don’t have coverage to take them to the doctor if they are missing because they have a toothache or they can’t see the board,” Saenz said. “This kind of coverage guarantees that children will in school on a regular basis."