By Joel Hall
Five years ago, the Georgia Department of Transportation (GDOT) provided Southern Regional Medical Center with a grant, so that some women, who were the mothers of new babies could transport their infants home in an industry-approved, child safety seat.
Supplies have dwindled in recent years, but this week, AMERIGROUP Community Care, a local health insurance agency, stepped in to help keep the program going for indigent mothers who give birth at Southern Regional.
AMERIGROUP recently donated $1,500 to the Women's Life Center at the hospital. The money was given on Wednesday, during a check-presentation ceremony.
Jackie Lawson, director of Women and Children Services at Southern Regional, said the GDOT grant originally provided the hospital with about 45 infant and booster seats. This week, she said, the hospital had about three seats left.
"All children, up until four years of age, or 65 pounds in weight, have to be in a car seat, or booster seat. Some of [the mothers] come in and they say they don't have the money to buy a car seat," Lawson said.
The average cost of a new infant car seat is "over $100," Lawson added. She said the money provided by AMERIGROUP will purchase 12 to 15 new infant seats, and booster seats for toddlers.
"I think it was wonderful for them to help out our indigent population, so that we can continue this program longer," Lawson said. "It is outstanding that they would recognize this and contribute that community support."
A spokesperson with AMERIGROUP could not be reached on Thursday for comment. John E. Littel, chairman of the AMERIGROUP Foundation, however, released a press statement this week on the donation.
"The AMERIGROUP Foundation is pleased to support this local effort to assist parents and children here in the community," Littel said. "AMERIGROUP strongly believes in preventive care, and this belief certainly applies to the fundamental, but necessary step of ensuring that children are able to be transported safely."
According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, motor vehicle accidents are the leading cause of death for children and adolescents between the ages of 1 and 21. Lawson said children being driven without a car seat are more prone to traumatic injuries, and "can be propelled around the car," in an accident.
Cynthia Jenkins, director of the Southern Regional Medical Center Foundation, the fund-raising wing of the hospital, said its car-seat program also serves as an education tool. "There are some mothers that don't know that they are required by law [to put their young child in a car seat]," Jenkins said. "They come really unprepared. AMERIGROUP has supplied support for the hospital before, but this is the first time they have provided us with a donation specifically for car seats."
Jenkins hopes the donation from AMERIGROUP will inspire other organizations to give to the program."We have so many indigent people, and we will only be able to buy so many car seats," she said. "Maybe that goodwill will be contagious."
Car seats are given only to women giving birth at Southern Regional whose incomes match federal poverty guidelines. For more information, call (770) 991-8000.