RALEIGH, N.C. (WNCN)–There’s a new program aimed to improve the health of North Carolina’s children, in a more streamlined way. 

The North Carolina Integrated Care for Kids, or NC IncK, is funded by the government.

The goal is to create a comprehensive care plan for the next generation.

“It’s really working to bring together services, so that we can meet not just kids’ health and healthcare needs, but also their social and educational needs,” said NC InCK’s Executive Director, Dr. Charlene Wong.

Wong said the program helps kids through the age of 21, who are insured through Medicaid, by filling an important missing piece of the wellness puzzle.

“Let’s say we’ve got Lauren, an 11-year-old who, in general, her health seems fine, right, she comes to her checkup, she looks fine, no medicines. Right now, in most health systems like her clinic, they would just say, Great, come back for your next wellness visit,” she explained. “What NC InCK is going to help us do, is to better understand more of the needs of Lauren, her family, we then seeing, we might identify that she missed a whole lot of school last year, or that her family doesn’t always have enough to eat.”

The program will do this, using “family navigators.”

“A family navigator is the quarterback for the child in the family, typically a nurse or social worker whose job it is to work with the family over a year to understand their needs, connect them to services, and bring together that care team,” said Wong.

The Duke Health, UNC Health, and NC DHHS partnership began pre-pandemic. 

But two years later, leaders say they’ve realized the need is ever greater, now. 

“We see so many children, more children are having challenges with behavioral health needs that aren’t being met. Again, we saw that just rise so dramatically during COVID-19,” said Wong. 

Right now,  the pilot program is in just five counties: Durham, Orange, Alamance, Granville, and Vance. 

NC InCK is only funded, for now, through 2026. 

Wong hopes this can start to help make a difference. 

“We want to really be able to see the needle move on things like, we want fewer kids to be placed out of home, meaning fewer kids entering foster care or being hospitalized for a long time, we want to see more kids being ready to learn,” she said.  “We want to see more children and families who have enough to eat and who feel very confident that they do have a warm and safe place to sleep at night.”

Wong said the best part about the program is that families don’t need to do anything to sign up. 

If they’re insured through Medicaid and live in the five counties where the program is piloting, enrollment is automatic.