A greater percentage of Utah County's handicapped and chronically ill children will soon no longer have to travel outside the county to find special needed health care, thanks to a state contract to expand local services.

Under provisions of a $48,500 state contract recently approved by the County Commission, the Utah County Health Department will be able to expand community-based handicapped children's services from 5 percent to about 8 percent of the county's 5,000 handicapped children by July 1, 1989.Eight percent may seem low, but most handicapped or ill children receive needed help from their families or from private agencies, said Joseph Miner, director. Salt Lake City and Ogden serve 8 percent of their handicapped populations, he added.

Because Utah County has such a large child population, he said, an increas in services from 5 percent to 8 percent of that population will be a dramatic jump.

The State Health Department has provided monthly neurology clinics in Provo, and multi-disciplinary pediatric clinics are held once or twice monthly in Salt Lake City for local children. Miner said children who can't attend the local clinics or who need other services must travel to Salt Lake.

He said all followup and care coordination is provided via long-distance calls from Salt Lake, which makes coordination by local providers difficult and creates an additional financial burden on families that have to make long-distance calls, travel to Salt Lake or seek private physicians.

"The need has been here," Miner said. "It's just that the state hasn't had the money to extend these extra clinics down here. It's a good service for those people with handicapped children."

He said an increase in federal funding made the service expansion possible. A nurse coordinator and secretary will be hired by Sept. 30 in preparation for the increased caseload.

"The money will be used to pay for a full-time nurse and a full-time secretary to keep track of children, help them to get into care and help arrange appointments," Miner said.

In addition, the health department will be able to double or triple the number of clinics held locally. Under the expansion, the following clinics will be held locally once or twice a week: developmental evaluation, neurology, neuromotor, cardiac, genetic, cleft lip and palate and newborn follow-up.

Miner said he believes the increased service will benefit handicapped and ill children while easing the burden on parents who have had to travel to Salt Lake for service.