SPOKANE, Wash. — Area children, teachers and community members will come together to launch a new and exciting project – the Ronald McDonald Care Mobile today.

The community clinic on wheels is designed specifically for children who do not have regular access to health care. Going directly to where children are in their own schools and neighborhoods, the Care Mobile will offer primary care services and dental screenings at no cost to the community.

“To have a mobile clinic come directly to our schools will benefit children and their families tremendously,” Christie Querna, Spokane District 81 School Board vice president, said. “Providing primary care and dental screenings directly in their own environment will increase education and instill the importance of seeing a doctor and dentist regularly.”

There is a significant need in Spokane County to provide health services to uninsured children who lack access to regular healthcare. Nearly 22 percent of residents living below 100 percent of poverty were uninsured in 1999. Children are particularly hard hit with 6,000 to 10,000 uninsured children among those living below 200 percent of poverty, according to the Washington State Population Survey.

With the unquestioned presence of poverty in Spokane County, residents needing care face many barriers. The barriers include a lack of providers willing to care for the uninsured, cost, lack of providers in their neighborhoods and inadequate transportation, according to a recent study. Right now, there is a small network of clinics providing care to a small portion of the counties’ uninsured.

“With such a high number of children residing in Spokane County without health insurance, the importance of these children having access to healthcare has never been greater,” said Dr. Kennard Kapstafer, pediatrician. “From many years of treating children, I have seen how lack of access prevents them from receiving healthcare. The Care Mobile will play a significant role in educating families about the importance of regular healthcare by bringing the services to them.”

The $300,000 state-of-the-art Care Mobile is being donated by the Ronald McDonald House Charities Global. Spokane must in turn raise $1.3 million in matching funds to cover operation of the program for a minimum of five years. Currently, 50 percent of the funding for the Care Mobile’s five years of operation is in place from many organizations and individuals who have already stepped forward.

Charter Major Sponsors of the Ronald McDonald Care Mobile project include Inland Northwest Health Services, Ronald McDonald House Charities of Spokane, Intercollegiate College of Nursing/Washington State University College of Nursing, Spokane McDonald’s Restaurants, Mr. and Mrs. Daniel Murphy, MSC Premera Blue Cross, Mr. and Mrs. Michael Murphy, Bouten Construction and Coca Cola Northwest.

During the first year, the Care Mobile will be staffed by a family nurse practitioner, staff nurse and support personnel working through the Intercollegiate College of Nursing/Washington State University College of Nursing. It will travel between Bemis, Grant, Logan and Stevens elementary schools to help families connect with ongoing healthcare and dental care services in the community and also assist them in applying for government sponsored health insurance. The goal of the Care Mobile project will be to expand services to outlying areas and counties after the initial startup. Dependent on community funding and support, the goal of the Care Mobile project is to reach all children in the region.

The Care Mobile program is not intended to compete with existing programs in the community. Instead, the objective of the program is to deliver healthcare services to unserved, or underserved children and teens in their neighborhoods. All people will be served regardless of ability to pay. It will serve as the doorway to ongoing relationships with community healthcare providers.

With only nine care mobiles operating in the United States, bringing one to Spokane has been made possible through a collaborative community effort of individuals and community organizations who have worked to raise funding. The driving force behind the project is the Ronald McDonald Care Mobile Task Force. These members are made up of representatives from Inland Northwest Health Services, the Intercollegiate College of Nursing, WSU Foundation, the Spokane Ronald McDonald House Board of Directors, Shriners Hospital for Children, Spokane Regional Health District, Health Improvement Partnership, pediatricians and dentists, and Spokane School District 81. They have worked for a year to make the Care Mobile a reality. They will announce the project at 10 a.m. today at Stevens Elementary.

Magic tricks, balloon animals and a pep band will delight Stevens Elementary School children, teachers and community members as Ronald McDonald sets the stage for announcing the Ronald McDonald Care Mobile project.

Spokespersons will include Ronald McDonald Care Mobile Task Force Members Dr. Kennard Kapstafer, pediatrician; Carole Jones; immediate past president for Spokane Ronald McDonald Board and Christie Querna, District 81 School Board vice president. A video of a Care Mobile currently in operation will show the patient examination rooms, laboratory and reception area that are all housed on wheels.

Even with the initial funding in place, there is still more work to do. There are numerous ways to become part of bringing health and hope to children in Spokane through financial, in-kind or volunteer support. Contact the Care Mobile Task Force at the Intercollegiate College of Nursing/WSU College of Nursing at 324-7200 for more information. The Care Mobile is slated for arrival in the fall of 2002.