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FARMINGTON — A Farmington nonprofit organization is starting a new program to increase the number of eligible Navajo youth who are enrolled in health care coverage.

Capacity Builders Inc. will receive an $860,000 grant from the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services as part of the National Connecting Kids to Coverage Campaign, according to Melissa Tarazon, Capacity Builders executive director. The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services operates the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services.

The local nonprofit is one of 38 community organizations in the country awarded $32 million to increase the number of eligible children enrolled in Medicaid and the Children’s Health Insurance Program, or CHIP.

“We’re really, really excited,” said Merrissa Johnson, Capacity Builder's grant administrator. “We see a need, and we are thankful for this funding.”

The program is expected to start in August after funding is received next month.

Johnson said about 1,300 Navajo youth, ages 17 and younger, who are eligible for Medicaid and CHIP are not enrolled in those programs. That number is based on 2010 U.S. Census Bureau data the organization used in its grant application.

According to that data, there are about 13,500 Navajo youth living in San Juan County who eligible for Medicaid or CHIP. Johnson said no figure is provided for how many of those children are enrolled in the programs.

The grant will provide two years of funding for Capacity Builders to organize events and programs to educate youth and their parents about how to enroll in Medicaid and CHIP. The organization will also host three monthly enrollment sessions targeting Navajo Nation chapter houses in the western portion of San Juan County, Johnson said.

Further, Capacity Builders will host two large annual events and participate in 12 community events by operating a booth to share information about enrolling in eligible services.

Organizers of the new program hope to reach remote areas without resources — such as transportation — and help people enroll in health care coverage, Johnson said. The nonprofit hopes to annually enroll 250 youth and 850 adults or family members.

Tarazon said the new initiative aligns with the mission of Capacity Builders, which operates more than 20 projects aimed at supporting the Navajo Nation, as well as programs that promote youth wellness and nutrition.

“(It) just dovetails into everything else we are doing and helps us enhance the services the community is already receiving,” Tarazon said.

Joshua Kellogg covers education for The Daily Times. He can be reached at 505-564-4627.

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