As unemployment in Mesa County rises, so does the number of families without health insurance. Many of those families can qualify for help from the state but some never apply.
Sierra Lukens is a single mom struggling to pay the bills so when her daughter gets sick, she worries about how she's going to afford it.
"I took her to the emergency room and just for one visit it was $500," Lukens told 11 News on Friday.
That was before she enrolled in the Child Health Plan Plus, or CHP, a healthcare program through the state.
"If she didn't have Medicaid that would be hard to pay. I'm so grateful for that."
Sierra's story is becoming more and more common.
Cathy Story with Hilltop Services says as people lose their jobs and insurance they're rushing in to apply for help, many of them for the first time.
"What we're seeing is families who are having to choose between buying health insurance and putting food on the table. That's really not a choice and it's sad that families are having to go there right now," Story told 11 News on Friday.
She says a lot of those parents are making the choice without knowing about plans like CHP.
"They wait until it becomes chronic or crisis level."
And that's why Hilltop held a sign–up fair Friday afternoon at the Mesa County Workforce Center and the group will be doing more outreach throughout the summer.
"t's the right thing to do, because every child deserves insurance," said Story.
Something Sierra Lukens says has been a lifesaver.
"I'm so greatful for that."
And she hopes she can afford her own insurance after she graduates, so she's working hard to know that if her daughter gets sick, she'll get care.
Hilltop says of the children that qualify for CHP 89 percent of families have applied but that still leaves 11 percent without insurance.
For more information or to find out if you qualify, call Hilltop Services at (970) 683–2634.