By JULIE MINDA
Dell Children's Medical Center of Central Texas has opened a store that sells car seats, bike helmets, life jackets and other safety items for children. All of the merchandise is sold below the suggested retail price, and additional discounts are available to low-income families.
Among the products available for purchase is kid-size water safety gear.
Austin, Texas-based Dell Children's opened the Simply Safety store in mid-January at a medical office building adjacent to the pediatric hospital. In addition to the car seats and wearable safety gear, the store sells portable cribs and home safety products including child-proof locks.
According to Stewart Williams, injury prevention manager for Dell Children's, "Every device in the store can be demonstrated." He said the team running the store wants to ensure that caregivers know how to properly use the safety items before they leave the store.
Associates who are on the medical center's injury prevention team and hospital volunteers staff the store. They help to fit the safety items that are body-specific to the children; they provide families with instruction on using the items; and they are trained and certified to demonstrate car seat installation and use. The store's staff also can assist with adaptive seats for children with conditions that prevent them from using a conventional car seat.
Lauren Van Winkle, injury prevention coordinator at Dell Children’s Medical Center of Central Texas, fits a child for a helmet at the medical center’s Simply Safety store.
The safety store also has educational displays for visitors, including a lineup of common household products that are a danger to children.
Williams said the store meets a need for greater injury prevention in the Austin area. He said Dell Children's has seen a rise in the severity of injuries among its patient population.
Williams said the team that created the store aims to serve low-income families that struggle to afford safety gear. Experts advise against using some items, such as car seats, if the history of the item is not known, and so families may not feel comfortable buying used safety gear. But at the safety store, they can buy the products new at a lower price than typically available. Williams provided the example of a particular convertible car seat that usually retails at $70 to $95. The safety store sells it for $60. Some low-income families may be able to buy that seat at the safety store at 50 percent off the posted price, or $30.
To qualify for that discounted cost, families report their monthly income and their household size. The most financially disadvantaged families pay a $10 minimum for costly items like car seats. To qualify for the minimum price, families must show proof that they receive government assistance.
The medical center's injury prevention team modeled the safety store after a small kiosk it has operated for several years at the medical center. That kiosk, which remains open, only serves hospital patients. Opening the larger, more comprehensive store allows Dell Children's to open the service to the broader community as well. (Dell Children's is a member of the Seton Healthcare Family, part of Ascension)
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