KERN COUNTY: School District Begins Support And Referral Service For The Poor
McFarland Unified School District launched a new Healthy Start program this weekend in "an effort to provide needy families with services they don't typically have access to or may not know about," the Bakersfield Californian reports. Sponsored by the school district, in conjunction with "the town's businesses, churches, and public and private agencies" and funded by a $400,000 grant from the California Department of Education, the program counsels poor families on where to go to receive medical and dental care, legal services, child care, food and clothing. The program also monitors the progress of families they advise. Program coordinator Alfredo Garcia said, "The program is designed to empower the families and to help them become more self-sufficient. Sometimes, the families have problems and don't know where to turn. There are agencies out there that can help them, and we send them in the right direction." While local response to the program has been positive, many McFarland residents remain unaware of the program or are reluctant to ask for help. Garcia points out that the area's population, which is 90% Hispanic, has "had to overcome some cultural differences," including negative experiences with agencies in Mexico that "proved to be corrupt." Garcia said, "We try to tell them that's not the way things are here. ... We all have the same goal to help families" (Shrider, 3/27).This is part of the California Healthline Daily Edition, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.