Kids' Healthcare Vans Roll Into Motor City

Dr. Teresa Holtrop, a pediatrician with Children's Hospital of Michigan, discusses the Children's Health Fund's National "Kids Can't Wait" campaign being launched in Detroit, April 25, 2009. The program offers free health care for children whose families lack insurance coverage or access to healthcare providers. CBS

Detroit has been hit-hard by the recession, with an unemployment rate higher than anywhere else in the nation. That soaring jobless rate has made health care coverage much more difficult, or impossible to afford for many families.

But Children's Health Fund began a nationwide program there Saturday offering free health services to the youngest victims of the recession.

The organization has 37 mobile medical clinics, and deployed five to Detroit dispensing free care to anyone 18 or younger who needs it.

CBS News correspondent Seth Doane and CBS Evening News weekend anchor Jeff Glor are in the Motor City reporting from the scene for The Early Show Saturday Edition and Evening News. It's part of the special initiative, "CBS Reports: Children of the Recession," gauging the impact of the severe economic downturn on the nation's young.

On The Early Show Saturday Edition, Doane said the only qualification to get care at the Children's Health Fund's Kids Can't Wait site is "that you need help. No questions asked."

An empty field was transformed into a temporary medical facility for the weekend effort to combat what organizers call a "quiet disaster."

"I think we're going to see a lot of children with acute and chronic medical and dental and social-service related problems that I think we're going to be able to, number one, service this weekend and, number two, connect them to services to continue the right care," Children's Health Fund Chief Medical Officer Dr. Arturo Brito said.

At the neighborhood level, volunteers are trying to get the word out.

Canvasser Michael Coffer told Doane, "I know a lot of kids around here that get hurt and don't go to the clinic (because) they don't have insurance."

Eighty-to-100,000 children in Michigan fit don't have it, Doane says.

So, about one hundred doctors, dentists and assistants will work all weekend, many of them volunteering their time.

Dental assistant Katie McKee says such services are needed in Detroit "a lot. They're greatly needed. Everywhere, not just not here in Detroit."

While no one knows how many will turn out this weekend, organizers are determined not to turn anyone away. The vans can handle up to 60 kids an hour.

Dr. Teresa Holtrop, of Children's Hospital of Michigan, a partner in the weekend effort, explained to Doane that Medicaid reimbursements are too low to meet the financial needs of many medical providers, who opt out of the system, leaving too few providers to tend to the city's poor.

Then, she said, "What ends up happening is we have children who don't have access to a medical home and therefore don't have access to someone who knows them and can help them manage treatment of conditions such as asthma, iron deficiency anemia, lead poisoning, or prevent conditions such as being overweight or failing to thrive. We expect we're gonna see children seeking help with all those conditions" this weekend.
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