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Community health forum scheduled

COVINGTON - A new group is trying to help families with special-needs children in Newton and Rockdale counties and has activities planned this week.

The Parent Leadership Coalition Navigator Team will hold a community health forum, called the World of Medicaid, on Monday. The event will be held from 6:30 to 8:30 p.m. at Covington First United Methodist Church, 1113 Conyers St. S.W. in Covington.

It's sponsored by Parent to Parent Georgia, a non-profit organization out of Atlanta, which recently formed a Family to Family Health Information Center to provide information and education to families with special needs.

The group will provide information about general doctors, specialists, pediatricians, programs, camps and schools.

Jill McGiboney, Navigator Team leader for Newton and Rockdale, said Parent to Parent is trying to branch out into more metro Atlanta counties.

"I know I hate to drive to Atlanta all the time, so this is nice for them to come to us," she said. "They said they'll come out on a needs basis."

She said the group is holding a forum on Medicaid because it is a "hot topic" right now among families with disabilities. She said with budget cuts and changing programs and criteria for eligible people, it's important for needy families to keep up-to-date.

"Lots of people can't afford to pay ... so they need supplemental medical help," she said.

At the forum, Brian Dowd, director of the member services and policy unit with Georgia's Department of Community Health, and Sherry Richardson, director of Family to Family, will present a program.

Following the presentation, they will take questions from the audience; they also have handouts with related information.

"We hope people will be able to come out," McGiboney said.

She also wants families to join the Navigator Team.

"(It's) a network of parents of children with special health care needs and community partners that work collaboratively to support families," according to a press release.

She said they usually meet monthly for a special speaker or workshop; they also hold various special events from time to time.

Anyone interested in joining the team or finding out more information about events should e-mail McGiboney at yenobig@mindspring.com.

Parent to Parent also will be featured at another event next week.

Debi Tucker, who has more than 13 years of experience in the disability field, will speak at 6:30 p.m. Thursday for a Newton County Special Education Parent Support Group Meeting at the Newton County Board of Education, 2109 Newton Drive N.E. in Covington. She will speak about the services PTP provides and talk to families about training and goals for their special-needs children.

Child care and refreshments will be provided at both events.

Michelle Floyd can be reached at michelle.floyd@newtoncitizen.com.

SideBar: If you go

· What: The World of Medicaid

· Who: For parents of children with special health care needs

· When: 6:30 to 8:30 p.m. Monday

· Where: Covington First United Methodist Church, 1113 Conyers St. S.W., Covington

· More information: Jill McGiboney at yenobig@mindspring.com

· What: Newton County Special Education Parent Support Group Meeting

· Who: For families with special-needs children

· When: 6:30 p.m. Thursday

· Where: Newton County Board of Education, 2109 Newton Drive N.E., Covington