Study finds high level of poverty, uninsured kids in north Tex. counties

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BONHAM, TX -- Representatives from Children's Medical Center were in Bonham Monday to share findings from a new study on children's health.

The study included Grayson, Cooke and Fannin counties, and shows the need for improvement in some vital areas.

It identifies four inter-related areas impacting the well-being of children: health, economic security, safety and education.

"The things that really interested us the most is the rate of poverty and the lack of access to health care for children in our area," said Joyce Harris, editor of the study.

Cooke County has the highest percent of children living in poverty at almost 20 percent. Grayson County follows with 16 percent and Fannin County ranks third with 14 percent, according to the study.

Harris said all five counties have at least twice the national poverty level.

"We don't have as many foster homes as we would like," she said. "We don't have as much low-income housing as we would like."

Timothy Bray, another author of the study, said the number of uninsured children in these five counties is an alarming concern.

"North Texas is generally about double the amount of kids who are uninsured nationally, and nationally is only about eight percent."

Cooke County has the most uninsured kids at almost 24 percent, followed by Grayson County at almost 20 percent and Fannin County at 16 percent.

Bray said a lack of insurance usually leads to a lack of preventative care.

"And so I might wait until that child's - what started out as a cold - turns to something more serious [before getting care], right?" he said.

But now that the data is out there, the next step is trying to solve some of the low points. Which officials say won't be an easy process.

Sandy Barber, Fannin County Children's Center executive director, is pleased with the turnout at Monday's meeting. She said community awareness is the first step in fixing the problem.

"Maybe we need to change some focuses or change some priorities," she said. "Or do some things differently."

Bray said it will take community-wide baby steps.

"When we start to realize this is where we are today, but it's not where we're going to be forever, then we can start talking about how we come together as a community," he said.

Since 2000, the number of families with children living in poverty increased slightly in Grayson and Cooke counties.

But the number actually decreased in Fannin County.

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