DSHS wants to learn

SPOKANE -- The Department of Social and Health Services' Medical Assistance Administration (the agency in charge of programs such as Medicaid and the Children's Health Insurance Program) is launching a series of statewide community meetings.

The meetings are an attempt on the agency's behalf to garner some input on the types of services its clients would like to see developed within the next six years.

"We want to hear from everyone," says Jim Wilson, assistant secretary for the Medical Assistance Administration. "Some people who attend will be real knowledgeable about the system. Others may just want to know more. But we want everyone to describe their own vision."

People who receive DSHS services, medical assistance providers and local health agencies are expected to attend. The meetings will also deal with current changes in the health care system, such as the rising prices of prescription medication and the state's aging population.

"We want to know what medical assistance should look like in 2007," says Wilson. "We don't want this input to gather dust on a shelf. We're committed to going back to the communities and saying, 'Here is what you told us. Here is what we're doing about it.' Let's plan the changes we want to make, not just the ones we have to."

The first meeting is Friday, March 9, from 6-9 pm in Sacred Heart's Mother Joseph Room. On Saturday, March 10, there's a meeting at the Colville Community College from 2-5 pm. Call: (360) 902-7604.

Internet safety

COEUR D'ALENE -- As children become Internet savvy, some surpass their parents' skills while in the lowest elementary grades. So it's getting more and more challenging for parents, teachers and guardians to keep an eye on their Web activities.

But there's help to be found, even for those totally computer illiterate, at a free class on keeping children safe on the Internet. The class is sponsored by the Coeur d'Alene Kiwanis Club in conjunction with the Coeur d'Alene Police Department.

"The Internet is a fantastic information tool, but there is also a lot of information out there that kids shouldn't see," says Dick Jurvelin, a Kiwanis member and one of the instructors in the class. "There have been incidents where people have become involved in some serious, even criminal, circumstances over the Internet, and this class will give you some ideas so you can make sure your child is safe."

Children seem to be especially at risk in chat rooms, where sex offenders can make up fake personal profiles designed specifically to lure personal information from children.

"It's about enforcing to the children that you don't talk to strangers. It's no different than that, it's an awareness thing," says Jurvelin, adding that the class also will cover Internet filters and other types of software available. "The biggest issue is that the kids oftentimes are way ahead of their parents. At this class, you find out what your kids already know."

& & & lt;i & The free class is on Saturday, March 10, from 8:30 am-4:30 pm at the NIC Workforce Training Campus in Post Falls. Must preregister. Call: (208) 664-9221. & lt;/i & & lt;/center &

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