Editor's note: This is the third in a series of stories highlighting the 21 agencies to receive United Way's annual campaign funds. The next article will run in Tuesday's edition of The Telegram.

BY RACHAEL GRAY

rgray@gctelegram.com

Diabetes is a growing nationwide problem. Finney County and southwest Kansas are not spared.

That's why United Methodist Mexican-American Ministries plans to use this year's United Way funding to pay for a part-time diabetes lay educator through the Southwest Kansas Diabetes Prevention and Control Program.

UMMAM will receive $33,000 from United Way to fund the lay educator position.

For the previous two years, UMMAM has designated United Way funds to the dental clinic.

Stephanie Waggoner, UMMAM executive director, said this year staff decided funds should go towards diabetes.

"Diabetes is a huge issue in our community and across the nation. Some of the funds we had previously received for that program had been cut over the past few years. So in an effort to beef up the services that we were offering, we chose to write the United Way grant for that program this year," she said.

According to data from UMMAM, approximately 180,000 Kansas adults have been diagnosed with diabetes and 120,000 people in Kansas remain undiagnosed. The national benchmark for diabetes is 6.5 percent and Finney County has a rate of 8.1 percent as of 2008, according to the Center for Disease Control.

"Many of our diabetics and those undiagnosed diabetics are underserved and uninsured leading to barriers in accessing appropriate medical care as well as the preventative services available to successfully manage their disease," Stephanie Waggoner, UMMAM executive director, wrote in the grant for the funding.

Waggoner said Finney County provides services to individuals suffering from diabetes through dieticians at St. Catherine Hospital and UMMAM.

But Waggoner said oftentimes there's a language barrier.

"We offer services in Spanish, and if other languages are needed we can accommodate that," Waggoner said.

The part-time lay educator position will operate out of the Garden City UMMAM clinic, freeing up the full-time person to visit other clinics in southwest Kansas. UMMAM has a dietician, and together with the medical provider and lay educator, patients will receive ongoing information about their disease.

"The lay educator provides continued support to the patient through further explanation in simple terms and giving simple meal plans," Waggoner wrote.

The diabetes team not only will help those diagnosed with diabetes, but also help those who may be at risk.

"What we're seeing in our community is about 8 percent who have diabetes. But there's a much larger percentage that is at risk," she said.

Waggoner said although some people may be aware they are at risk for diabetes through family history, they may not be taking the proper preventative steps.

"Really, education is key in getting that information out into the community," she said.

In the past, UMMAM has been able to put together programs and information for the public.

"We're hopeful with that additional part-time lay educator position, that we'll be able to not only touch more people one-on-one, but also (will be) doing more outreach in the community to get that information out there," Waggoner said.

Other United Way agencies that will receive funds for 2012 are Garden City Family YMCA, Kansas Children's Service League; Santa Fe Trail Council Boy Scouts; Smart Start; Playground Program; Catholic Social Services; Family Crisis Services; Spirit of the Plains, CASA; The Salvation Army; Meals on Wheels; Habitat for Humanity; Finney County RSVP, Inc.; Garden City Chapter of the Red Cross; Miles of Smiles; Russell Child Development Center; Southeast Asian Mutual Assistance Association; United Cerebral Palsy of Kansas; Big Brothers Big Sisters of Finney and Kearny Counties; Community Day Care; and Girl Scouts of Kansas Heartland.

United Methodist Mexican-American Ministries

Address: 712 St. John St.

Phone: 275-1766

Director: Stephanie Waggoner