CATCH Kids takes the spotlight

By Michaela Gibson Morris
Daily Journal

TUPELO – CATCH Kids has snagged kudos for its work in getting medical and dental care to children.

The Tupelo-based nonprofit organization, which has 10 school-based clinics and four community clinics, has been tapped as one of four success stories to be highlighted by Mississippi Kids Count, which is part of the national initiative spearheaded by the Annie E. Casey Foundation.

“Each year with Kids Count statistics, we see Mississippi ranking at the bottom,” said Heather Hanna of Mississippi Kids Count, which is based out of Mississippi State University Social Science Research Center. “We thought it was important to highlight successful programs around the state that can be replicated in other communities and hopefully improve those rankings.”

Video crews from Mississippi State University visited the CATCH Kids clinic on Amos Street on Friday to talk to volunteers, parents and kids.

Their stories will be part of in the Mississippi Kids Count data book this winter, the annual summit in February and its Web site.

Lorrie Woodard and her son Issac, 9, were happy to share their CATCH Kids story.

The clinic helped her family in two ways – with accessible evening hours when Woodard couldn’t leave work early and through the free service when she lost health care coverage.

“We would have ended up at the ER,” said Woodard of Tupelo, who is preparing to move to Florida for a new job. “We wanted to help as much as we could before we left.”

CATCH Kids is open to anyone under 18, regardless of family income or insurance status.

“Our main focus is on children with barriers to care,” said Executive Director Valerie Long.

Physicians, nurse practitioners and others volunteer their time to see the kids in the clinic, which was founded by Tupelo pediatrician Dr. Ed Ivancic in 1998. CATCH Kids partners with dentists and pharmacies to make sure children get what they need.

“I like the fact we can make a difference,” said Dr. James Griffin, who started volunteering at the clinics four years ago when he was still a resident at the NMMC Family Medicine Residency Program.

Susan Ling, a retired practical nurse, has been volunteering her time to assist the doctors and nurse practitioners at the CATCH Kids clinics for eight years.

“My favorite days are when I have familiar faces,” Ling said.

Contact Daily Journal health reporter Michaela Gibson Morris at 678-1599 or michaela.morris@djournal.com.