Sacramento health fair draws hundreds of families to Hiram Johnson High

Published: Sunday, Mar. 17, 2013 - 12:00 am | Page 3B
Last Modified: Sunday, Mar. 17, 2013 - 7:39 am

Several hundred families gathered Saturday at Hiram Johnson High School for a health resource fair geared toward low-income residents.

Organizers helped families apply for government aid programs and file taxes, while also giving them health information.

"We had Disneyland lines," said Dayanna Macias-Carlos, program associate at the California Endowment, the event organizer.

The nonprofit helps underserved communities statewide gain access to health care and resources.

Attendees lined up outside the gym at Hiram Johnson starting at 9 a.m. Families gathered information packets and talked to volunteers.

Maria Gonzalez of Sacramento was wasting no time scooping up all the information she could get her hands on. The 42-year-old mother of eight pushed a stroller with a baby son while she held the hand of a daughter.

"Sometimes we have health insurance, sometimes we don't," she said. "It all depends if my husband is working."

Gonzalez was like many in the crowd who were either underinsured or had no insurance.

Macias-Carlos said the fair was organized specifically to inform residents of new changes to the nation's health care laws that would make many families eligible for government support.

"The Affordable Care Act is the single largest expansion of health care (nationally) since Medicaid," said Kelly Bennett-Wofford, executive director of Sacramento Covered, a group that was helping families sign up for programs.

When the main provisions of the Affordable Care Act take effect in 2014, more than 100,000 people in Sacramento County will be eligible for benefits, Bennett-Wofford said.

Aside from various booths offering information, the fair featured a mini-clinic that offered vision tests and dental screenings. A station equipped with body fat scales was also offered.

"Many of these people haven't seen doctors in a long time," Macias-Carlos said.

Maria Villalobos, who doesn't have health insurance, was one of them.

"The last time I went to see a doctor was 10 years ago," the 53-year-old said. "But I've been pretty healthy."

Call The Bee's Richard Chang, (916) 321-1018. Follow him on Twitter @RichardYChang.

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