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Lincoln County commissioners asked to be part of “revamp” to early childhood health and education services

LC Commission, Wednesday

Lincoln County Commissioners Wednesday were asked to join a statewide effort to revamp and better coordinate services aimed at helping Oregon children be better prepared for kindergarten through third grade. Lincoln County Commission on Children and Families chief Barbara Dougherty and others told the commission that 700 children in Lincoln County live in poverty and that many have learning problems caused by home life to learning disabilities.

Dougherty outlined a series of statewide early childhood education services that are very complex, difficult for most people to understand and in need of revamping. Dougherty said Governor Kitzhaber has ordered part of that overhaul to include the creation of local ‘accountability hubs’ that can better coordinate services for troubled or disadvantaged children and to monitor the many services that these children are getting, as well as for those who need them, but for some reason, aren’t getting them. Dougherty told the commission, “We can either help them get the educational, health and mental health services they need to be effective learners, or we’ll lose them to crime, jail and other far costlier adult services.”

Doughterty told the commissioners that a statewide coordinating council for all this has been formed in Salem and that it will be working with the next state legislature to generate funding and coordination among all the hubs, statewide. The commissioners, she said, will have to pick which counties they’d like to affiliate with, whether it’s Linn and Benton or Tillamook, Clatsop or Polk. The idea, she said, is to create economies of scale for services between areas that are similar in social and economic backgrounds. The commission indicated a preference to affiliate with Tillamook or Clatsop because Lincoln County has very little in common with the urban areas of Lane, Benton or Linn counties, although Lincoln County does have partnering agreements with Benton and Linn on subject areas like transportation and the emerging medical Coordinated Care Organizations.

Dougherty said the commissioners will likely have to put out a request for proposals in early Spring to see what non-profit organization would like to form the ‘accountability hub.’ Shortly thereafter funding from the state legislature (and possibly from local sources) will be known and at that point the new coordinated early childhood education program can launch a more efficient and effective method of ensuring that regardless of income or family circumstances, Lincoln County’s pre-schoolers to third graders will be better equipped to learn how to meet the demands of what is truly a lifetime of education.

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