Navigators with ParentLink will address access to health care in the Bootheel

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ParentLink is a part of the University of Missouri College of Education

COLUMBIA, Mo. – The University of Missouri College of Education has announced that ParentLink has received $1.1 million from Missouri Foundation for Health in an effort to help parents understand the health care system and navigate service provider networks.

The funding will place three ParentLink navigators at the county health offices in Dunklin, Mississippi, New Madrid, Pemiscot, Scott and Stoddard counties in the Bootheel region of the state.  The navigators will be responsive to parents’ needs for services, helping them overcome barriers and teaching them how to navigate service provider networks.

Through this project, ParentLink will better understand the common issues, barriers and gaps facing families as well as what can be put in place to address the issues, including programs or policies. An outreach program of the College of Education, ParentLink provides research-based information and resources to parents and professionals across Missouri.

Carol Mertensmeyer-Ryan

“There are many health care challenges faced by families in the Bootheel,” said Carol Mertensmeyer-Ryan director of ParentLink.  “For example, a struggling, low-income mother had a baby with special health care needs. To secure the safety and well-being of the infant, their physician prescribed a specially designed crib. It took five months for the mother to receive the crib, and that was only after organized support from ParentLink. That’s just one of many challenges facing parents who often have little to no recourse readily available.”

The ParentLink call center is free for callers and staffed with experts at 1-800-552-8522 or 573-882-7323. More information is available at

“The University of Missouri’s land-grant mission inspires the College of Education to work in every community, and we’re proud this generous grant will help us expand our efforts in the Bootheel,” said Kathryn Chval, dean of the College of Education.

Missouri Foundation for Health, the funder for this project, is a resource for the region, working with communities and nonprofits to generate and accelerate positive changes in health. As a catalyst for change, the foundation improves the health of Missourians through a combination of partnership, experience, knowledge and funding.

By: Sheena Rice,