GRAND JUNCTION, Colo. When it comes to giving our children a solid start at life, Mesa County is making strides in certain areas and surpassing the rest of the state.
The newest KIDS COUNT in Colorado! results show 20% of children in Mesa County were living in poverty in 2012 compared to 18% in the state, however, the county is taking steps to help them.
Within two years, Mesa County went from a ranking of 14th to 12th out of 25 of Colorado's largest counties for child well-being.
The area that saw the most improvement was children who have health insurance.
"There's been a really great increase here in Mesa County in terms of children who have health coverage, which of course means that they're going to be better able to go to the doctor when they're sick, go to the hospital when they're injured so that was a really positive thing that happened here," said Sarah Hughes, a representative of the Colorado Children's Campaign, which put on the study.
Hilltop's programs helped make this happen by educating the community about their health care options.
"The systems to get healthcare coverage are challenging," said Jackie Sievers, director of community programs for Hilltop. "They're difficult for people, you have to navigate the system. So we're able to walk people through that process."
Mesa County is now in second place for the most insured children in the state compared to 18th place a couple of years ago.
"That's incredible. That is a huge jump," Sievers said. "It means we're reaching families. We're reaching kids. Getting them enrolled in the appropriate programs."
Another strength is Mesa County's low infant mortality rate, 2.7 deaths per 1,000 births, which is half that of the state's.
The county still has some areas that need work including education and graduation rate, which is 2% less than the rest of the state.
Also, only 19.5% of kindergarteners are in a full-day program here, significantly lower than the 70% state average.