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The Farmington School District and Project CALM have once again joined forces to help bring awareness of a life-threatening disease that affects both children and adults.

The district’s nursing staff and Project CALM joined forces on Dec. 7 and held an informative open house to bring awareness and to help educate both children and adults on the chronic respiratory disease – asthma.

“For the last three years, they come and train the nurses,” said Julie Klinkhardt, the nurse at Roosevelt Elementary. “They also come to the school and help train the teachers and staff, and they are planning to attend the board meeting to get emergency inhalers into the school for kids who may not have actual orders for an inhaler.”

According to its pamphlet, Project CALM, (Childhood Asthma Linkages in Missouri), is established through the partnership of Washington County Asthma Coalition, Washington County Memorial Hospital, Washington County Health Department, C2000 Partnership and the University of Missouri. The project is funded by a Health Resources and Service Administration grant and is designed to bring awareness of the severity of childhood asthma.

“Childhood asthma is a leading chronic disease for school absenteeism in Missouri,” said Michelle Barnes, a respiratory therapy and asthma educator for the organization. “We are in six counties - Crawford, Iron, Reynolds, Madison, St. Francois and Washington - and 23 different school districts. All are the top six counties in Missouri for asthma-related health issues.”

As part of the project, Barnes and her colleague, Tammy Reed, also an asthma educator, travel to schools and other community venues discussing and educating people about the chronic disease.

“We try and bring awareness about how severe asthma can be for a child.” Reed said. “Children can die and are dying. We don’t want that to happen in any of our counties. It is very important that we go in and educate. Asthma doesn’t go away, nor do you outgrow it, and that is very important for people to realize.”

According to Reed, the number one question asked by most parents with children who are suffering from asthma is how to afford the costly medication prescribed to their child.

“They can be prescribed all the right medications, but if the parents do not have the means to afford the medication, how is their child going to get the medication?” Reed said. “This grant, for children age 18 and younger, covers the cost of all asthma related medication, whether they have insurance or not...no questions asked.”

In addition to discussing how parents could get the medication they needed for their child for free, Reed and Barnes spent a great deal of time discussing the disease and how to control it as well.

“When we go into a school, we will do peak flow monitoring and check inhalation technique with all of the students,” Reed said. “We do this with every child who is in the school.”

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Additionally, Reed said they remind the parents of things they can do to help control their child’s asthma as well.

“As a parent, just knowing you have to pack an inhaler is very important,” Reed said. “No matter where you are going, even if you have been there 100 times before, you must pack your inhaler. You never know what has change or what will trigger an attack.”

Reed used her and her son as an example. Before leaving for college, they believed his asthma was under control; however, once he got to college, he needed his inhaler because his environment had changed.

For those in attendance who suffer from asthma, the program helped educate them on various ways to control the chronic disease.

“This evening gave us more of an education about asthma,” said Brandy Holbert, who was there with her 10 year old daughter, Kaley, who suffers from asthma. “If we are in the kitchen and she is in another room, she will know what to do if she feels an attack coming on.

Additionally, Project CALM not only tries to educate the staff at any of its schools, but also provides the school with the right medical equipment to combat this deadly disease.

“Through Project CALM, we actually got all of the nurses some of the things they will need to help with students,” Reed said. “We obtained nebulizers and peak flow monitors for their offices.”

As the evening wrapped up, most of those in attendance, including the district’s nursing staff, thought the night was beneficial for all those in attendance.

“The evening went very well,” Klinkhardt said. “We had a good turnout, about 30 people, and Michelle and Tammy always do a great job and a lot of people got some needed relief for free.”

For more information on the program, contact Reed or Barnes at 573-438-5451, ext. 218 or visit their website at www.wcmhops.org.

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Craig Vaughn is a reporter for the Farmington Press and can be reached at 573-756-8927 or at cvaughn@farmingtonpressonline.com

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