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Help Line Offers Advice for Parents

May 30, 2003|Carla Rivera | Times Staff Writer

Officials on Thursday unveiled a telephone and Internet advice line to help parents in Los Angeles County with questions about children's health, education and nutritional needs.

The free, confidential service, called First 5 LA Connect, links callers or browsers to trained specialists and health experts who can answer questions and assist parents in obtaining free or low-cost services for newborns and young children.

The program is funded by First 5 LA, a public agency that uses Proposition 10 tobacco tax money to invest in early childhood health and development programs for pregnant women and children until the children are 5 years old.

Parents who call (888) FIRST5-LA -- (888) 347-7855 -- or connect to the Web site at www.first5laconnect.com can get help in finding low-cost health insurance and child care, receive answers about breast-feeding, find parents' classes or learn what works to put a baby to sleep, among other things.

The service will operate seven days a week from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. in English and Spanish and will also be able to accommodate parents who speak other languages.

The help line eventually is expected to expand to 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

First 5 LA is spending $12 million over three years on the help line, which is run from a call center in Sherman Oaks and operated by NexCare Collaborative, a newly formed nonprofit group assisted by Cedars-Sinai Medical Center, the UCLA Center for Health Policy Research, the Los Angeles County Department of Children and Family Services and other public and private agencies.

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