Support for Local Kids with Diabetes
Douglas County children with diabetes and their families are receiving support, education, access to resources and more through a program offered by Mercy Foundation in collaboration with Mercy Medical Center, Cow Creek Health and Wellness Center and Douglas Education Service District school nurse program.
The Diabetes Youth Program began in 2018 as a support program for children with Type 1 diabetes, but it wasn’t long before it was growing into much more.
“We realized early on that the need went beyond providing support in a social setting,” says the program’s coordinator, Jamie Vanassche. “Type 1 diabetes is a complex disease and families can feel very challenged trying to coordinate all of the pieces. We found there was a significant need for education, making connections with professionals outside of the community as well as just general community awareness.”
Having type 1 diabetes can make children and their parents feel isolated. By bringing local children with diabetes and their families together with other families facing similar challenges they have an opportunity to connect and share.
The meetings are held monthly and alternate between a fun activity — such as bowling, skating or a movie – and an educational session, where topics range from checking blood sugar and playing sports with diabetes to nutrition education and food tastings.
In addition to the meetings, the Cow Creek Health and Wellness Center offers access to its Tele-Psych program to support the behavioral and mental health needs of children with diabetes and their families.
They also have access to Vanassche, a diabetes paraprofessional. “I’m there to help the families however I can. I put them in touch with local resources, help contact providers and provide general case management,” she says.
While COVID-19 required meetings to be held online last year, Vanassche says she is gradually reintroducing safe in person gatherings. She says the program started with 42 kids and is now just under 60. Participants range in age from 3 to 17.
According to the CDC, Type 1 diabetes affects approximately 22 out of every 100,000 children ages 0-14. It is an auto-immune disease that requires a life-long dependence on insulin and has a significant impact on a person’s daily life. In Douglas County, Vanassche says, an average four to six children are diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes annually.
Thanks to Mercy Foundation’s Youth Diabetes program, those children and their families now have access to an important resource to help them manage their disease and live a fuller life.
For information about the program, visit https://www.mercygiving.org/youth-diabetes.html or contact: