An Opportunity to Advance a “Child-First” Agenda
Co-Authored by: Paul H. Dworkin, MD, Founder of Help Me Grow and Sharon Beaudoin, WithinReach Chief Strategy Officer
As debate rages on as to how best reform our health care system, we ask, “What about our children?”
It’s a question likely on the minds of the more than 400 child health advocates gathering in Seattle this week for the 9th annual Help Me Grow National Forum. This convening affords the opportunity for us all to reconsider current approaches to health care reform to ensure enhanced resiliency in children and families by making it a national priority to address developmental concerns even before they become diagnosable conditions.
The Help Me Grow system helps states and communities leverage existing resources to identify vulnerable children, link families to community-based services, and empower families to support children’s healthy development. Help Me Grow began in 1997 as a pilot project in Hartford, Connecticut. Currently, with technical support from Help Me Grow National Center at Connecticut Children’s Medical Center, 28 states operate 99 Help Me Grow systems, which include Help Me Grow Washington, the host affiliate for this year’s Forum.
Partnership Spotlight: Rebecca Hendricks & The End-FLUenza Project
Rebecca Hendricks is the founder of The End-FLUenza Project and a community partner of WithinReach through our Immunization Action Coalition of Washington. Rebecca was recently featured in the Los Angeles Times, and she took some time to sit down with us to answer our questions and share her story for this Partnership Spotlight.
Pictured left is Rebecca Hendricks with picture of Scarlet receiving a Flu vaccine at an End FLU-enza event.
Your website mentions that you were motivated by the loss of your daughter Scarlet to create this foundation, can you tell us a little more about your daughter and how she inspired you to start the Fight the Flu Foundation (now The End-FLUenza Project)?
On December 19, 2014, my 5-year-old daughter Scarlet Anne died. She died from the flu. However, it wasn’t until later that I found out her cause of death was the FLU!
When Scarlet was in the hospital, I was told she had Pneumonia. It wasn’t until 2 weeks after her death did I find out her actual cause of death was flu and there was no sign of Pneumonia in her lungs according to the Medical Examiner. Although, no answer will ever be OK- I felt like pneumonia was easier to accept than flu. I had never heard of anyone dying from flu; I thought my child was the only child on the face of this earth that ever died from flu. I couldn’t wrap my head around how a person could die from just a bad cold… I just couldn’t.
The whole situation happened so suddenly, less than 48 hours. I replayed each day leading up to her death and most of it just didn’t make sense. Literally, the day before she died she was racing me to the door of her dentist office, for her check-up. Then the next moment, I’m sitting there, wondering what I’m going to do with my life? What am I going to do without my first girl? My middle child. My tiny dancer.
Scarlet was fearless. The moment she made an entrance in to this world, she made a statement. Even at just 5, she was passionate and didn’t give up anything without a fight. I feared what each day held for me going forward without her. But it was reflecting on my Scarlet, and how her dreams excited her and how she knew with every ounce of her being that she could be whatever she wanted to be, that gave me strength during my time of grieving. Nothing was just a dream to her. I learned from losing her that being courageous wasn’t the absence of fear, but the triumph over it.
If all medicine was 100% effective, my daughter would be alive today. But while no medicine works 100% of the time, any percentage of effectiveness is better than none. I wish someone had told me what I was up against. Perhaps, my daughter would still be living fearlessly singing ‘Royal’ to the top of her lungs in my living room if she had gotten the flu vaccine.
What would you tell a fellow parent who also had never vaccinated or was on the fence about the flu vaccine?
I never vaccinated my family against flu. Quite frankly, I never even gave it second thought. I wasn’t against vaccination. I just didn’t think the flu was deadly like some of these other diseases my children got vaccines for. There were times I had my doubts about the vaccine due to hearsay. So, I decided to learn more about the flu, what it is, how to recognize it, how one gets it and especially, how to prevent it. After lots of reading, research, coffee dates, and phone calls with people like Suzanne, founder of Ladybug House and Cindy Smith from the Pierce Co Immunization Coalition and Christine from Every Child by two–I came to a few conclusions.
1.) My daughter was NOT the only child on the face of this earth who died from flu and in fact, it’s quite common for children and adults, sadly, to die from the flu and it’s still a threat every year.
2.) Vaccination is the best way to protect your children, yourself and your loved ones.
3.) People needed to know the flu can kill you but you can protect yourself.
I was so compelled and eager to tell everyone to get more informed about the flu risks. I wanted to start knocking on doors right then. I needed to get this important message out- and the people that needed to hear it, weren’t looking for it. It was in that moment I decided to create the Fight the Flu Foundation, now named The End-FLUenza Project.
It didn’t take long for the organization to establish a nationwide campaign around flu awareness — The Flu Hat Campaign. This campaign became an avenue for several moms with similar experiences as myself to find our place/ our purpose in this world after such tragic loss. The Flu Hat campaign gives us an opportunity to share our lost loved ones story and let everyone know they were real humans and the Flu was their cause of death. Through sharing our stories we were educating parents on protecting their vulnerable new baby from flu.
Can you tell me a little more about what The End-FLUenza Project is and what it does?
The End-FLUenza Project is a national organization who’s mission is to empower families within communities through education and awareness- to make informed decisions on preventative measures they can take to protect against influenza.
The Flu Hat Campaign is our major year around campaign. Our concept involves creating opportunities for flu education, by distributing hand-made baby hats to new mothers. These “made with love” hats are packaged inside bags, along with flu awareness/ educational materials. The baby bag also includes a story of a child who has either been affected by the flu or lost their fight to the flu. With our stories, we give parents a chance to make an informed decision with the information we presented in their ‘made with love’ mother bag. You can follow the campaign on social media through the hashtag: #ProtectEveryoneAroundYou
Of course, the key component of this campaign has been procuring the large number of hats needed. We are fortunate and grateful to have enlisted many wonderful volunteers specifically for this particular task. Generous and caring people from all over the world have been contributing their time (and yarn) to crochet or knit hats for us. The organization has received hats from as far as India! We are so thrilled to have delivered over 11,000 hats to 45 different hospitals in 26 states!
We also launched our annual Walk to Fight the Flu. This family fun, vendor and educational event brings the community together for an exciting day of shopping, games, music, raffles, the 5k walk, most importantly— our flu clinic! We offer NO COST flu shots to the entire public! Thanks to local pharmacies and our very own Medical Reserve Corps. This event is working its way to each state, we add a new state each year. This year will be our 3rd year. We will have Washington, Massachusetts and New York!
How is The End-FLUenza Project connected to WithinReach
Not only am I the founder of The End-FLUenza Project, but I am also now an active leader within the Pierce County Immunization Coalition as the Community Education Chairman. While there are so many reasons people don’t get a flu shot- it is my tireless life journey to present factual information, share the precious lives of those affected by the flu. And most importantly, I want to empower each individual I come in contact with to make an informed decision on their lifestyle actions to protect themselves and everyone around them.
All pictures generously provided by Rebecca Hendricks.
Why WithinReach? Why Now?
Written by Aliyah Hina Quraishi, Board member at WithinReach
When the opportunity to serve as a WithinReach Board member presented itself I asked these same questions, why WithinReach? Why now? I was humbled to be considered among so many amazing and accomplished individuals.
This was not the first time I have been asked to join a Board. In fact, I had already founded a nonprofit to answer one question for myself – How can I make more of a difference?
“Making a difference” is a relative concept and means different things to different people. That’s what differentiates us from one another – the unique lens we bring to everything we do in life. But with ‘making a difference’, there is a common thread no matter what lens you use – empathy.
For me, empathy is about caring, service, and compassion for others. It is about caring enough to do something. To take action. To be a voice.
As a health care industry leader, I understand how challenging it can be for families to navigate our complex health and social service systems. I also know the motivation, dedication and innovative thinking required to change these systems of support across our state.
This is where WithinReach comes in. For over 30 years, WithinReach has turned empathy into action. And, it was the strategic nature of WithinReach’s action that drew me to the Board.
There is a spirit of innovation in all WithinReach does. For instance, WithinReach embraces technology and uses it to better their programs and services in order to increase access to resources for vulnerable members of the community. WithinReach’s staff are certified navigators in the State, and coupled with their custom resource database, can enroll individuals and families in affordable health insurance and supplemental food programs, and connect them to other community-based resources.
Whether it’s making sure kids have a healthy breakfast and can start the school day ready to learn, or providing parents with the tools they need to ensure their kids are meeting important, early developmental milestones, Withinreach is focused on helping families connect to all the resources they need to be healthy and safe.
Washington State just concluded its open enrollment period for health insurance, and whether you are enrolling through your employer, as an individual or through Federal and State programs – health care coverage is complicated and confusing. WithinReach makes it easier, by helping people navigate the enrollment process with ease. WithinReach helped 3,110 of people get covered for health insurance in 2017. It’s not just about numbers – it’s about changing lives, like we see in Nathan’s Story.
I have witnessed the powerful impact that WithinReach has on the health and well-being of Washington families, and I am proud and humbled to be part of this work. As a WithinReach Board member and Ambassador, I want more people to know how WithinReach is helping create healthy, vibrant communities in Washington so that all families have the opportunity to thrive.
I invite you to join me in making a difference for families in Washington – consider following WithinReach on Facebook to learn more, or better yet, join me on May 9th at Experience WithinReach, an interactive event designed to show you exactly what this great organization does. You will meet WithinReach staff and learn what this organization is doing every day to address urgent needs and create lasting impact.
Aliyah Hina Quraishi
Strategic Technology Leader at UnitedHealth Group/Optum | Board Member, WithinReach| Entrepreneur | Philanthropist | Proud owner of Shaggy
A Visit from KIND (Kids In Need of Defense)
Written by Meryl Safar, WithinReach Specialist, AmeriCorps
WithinReach Intercultural Competency Committee works to bring in guest organizations to inform our staff about their work, and how they’re making an impact in the community we all live in. Often times, these organizations give us insights into what our own clients might be facing. This helps us as a staff to better empathize with situations our clients might be in and to be able to refer them to the right services.
Last month we had the pleasure of hosting Kids in Need of Defense (KIND) at our Healthy Connections Team Meeting. Our presenters were Melody Young, Pro Bono Coordinating Attorney and Ellen Reed, Social Services Coordinator, who shared the organization’s origin and how they work to provide legal services for unaccompanied children. The legal classification of an unaccompanied child is someone that is under the age of 18 who has no immigration documentation, and has no parent or legal guardian that can provide care and physical custody at the time of the child’s arrival to the United States. Their work is crucial because in Washington State where no one, including children, has the right to legal representation in immigration court unlike other courts of law.
Legally unaccompanied children are not unaccompanied by choice. They are frequently escaping complex and varying situations of violence, neglect, and persecution in their home countries. Founded 10 years ago in part by celebrity Angelina Jolie and backed by Seattle’s own Microsoft, KIND has now grown into a nationwide organization. With field offices in multiple urban communities (Atlanta, Baltimore, Boston, Houston, L.A, Newark, New York City, San Fran, Seattle, WA DC), KIND has been able to connect with 14,542 referred children as of April, 2017. 477 legal professionals and associations function as partners in supporting the mission of KIND.
KIND actively works at all levels of the immigration system. They are directly involved in policy development and intentional lobbying for immigration reform. KIND representatives advocate on behalf of the children they serve to ensure equity in legal treatment. Furthermore, they protect unaccompanied children so that those children have access to the healthy futures they deserve. In order to achieve these goals KIND attorneys, alongside numerous volunteers and partners, work one-on-one with children to help navigate a multifaceted legal system.
Specifics for Seattle Field Office: KIND accepts referrals for children between the ages of 0-18. However, the majority their referrals are for children between 16-18 years old. Primary underlying cause of forced un-accompaniment for Seattle referrals is gang violence, domestic violence, violence against children living on the street and persecution.
Referral Guidelines for KIND: Clients must live in King County or have supporting adults that work in the Seattle area. Clients also must be under 18 years old and meet the 200% of the federal poverty guideline income level. Cases are prioritized by level of urgency such as if a child is in removal proceedings.
How to refer someone to KIND: Call to start the referral process at (206) 359-2366. In the voicemail include the name of caller, name of child, reason for calling, country of residence, phone number, upcoming court dates, and name of referral agency (if applicable).
Volunteering with KIND: With their service to many unaccompanied children from South America, KIND works with bilingual volunteers to help translate between attorney and child. Here at WithinReach, one of our Bilingual Specialists on our Healthy Connections Team, Bradley Mills, volunteers for KIND as an Assistant to the Case legal interpreter. During his time at KIND, he has assisted many children with interpreting complicated legal lingo and providing translating support to attorneys, children and their families and caretakers. As a volunteer, he follows specific cases and interprets whatever phone calls or documents may arise along the way. Bradley, and volunteers like him, call families with the attorney present and asks for further information while navigating family situations. When going over complex legal documents with children, volunteers and attorneys try to bring normalcy to the child’s life by connecting with them about friends, hobbies, school, and family.
“It is hard to ask children to step up when they just want to be a kid.” -Bradley Mills
- 75% of referrals, in the Seattle branch, come from Central American Countries such as El Salvador, Guatemala, and Honduras
- Primary languages spoken: Spanish and Indigenous languages
- 60% Of children arriving in the U.S. have no one to represent them in immigration court
- Children without representation are five times more likely to be deported
In order to best provide holistic and sustainable support, KIND works to understand the child’s journey and incorporates the children’s personal stories into their work. An unaccompanied child faces barriers such as gender-based violence, deprivation, and often trauma. All of the barriers continue throughout the legal process, and are not restricted to the child’s journey to the United States. The deportation system for young children and people that do not have representation is incredibly limiting. Limitations such as language, legal vocabulary, background knowledge of the U.S legal systems, knowledge of what your status and requirements are, and fear of deportation are just a few of the barriers at play. Combine these barriers with the struggles of being a child in a foreign country, the children have an intensely arduous journey to physical, emotional, and social well-being. Every child deserves the opportunity to flourish without these barriers, and KIND works towards reducing the difficulties that these children face when confronting immigration court in the U.S.
These statistics were provided to WithinReach staff at our December presentation from KIND and their 2017 Corporate Volunteer Fact Sheet. For more information about KIND and the work that they do, please visit https://supportkind.org/ or contact the KIND Seattle office at email@example.com
Filling the Gap: Food Resources for Families During Winter Break
Written by Rebecca Wolfe, WithinReach AmeriCorps Specialist
The holiday season is a fun and festive time, with parties to attend, gifts to shop for, and large meals to be shared. For many families, however, this can be a struggle. Free and reduced-price school meals have become a major source of nutrition for many children, and families often struggle to provide adequate food when these resources disappear over the winter holiday. As of the 2016-2017 school year, 473,309 students in Washington public schools were enrolled. That’s almost 43% of the student population. In Washington State, 1 in 5 children are a part of a household that struggles to put food on the table. For these kids, a school break can often make breakfast and lunch much harder to come by.
Here are a few ways to help fill in the gap:
Basic Food: If you are looking for food assistance, your household may be eligible for the Basic Food program, also known as SNAP, food stamps, and EBT. This program can be an excellent resource for families during the holidays and year-around. Your EBT card operates like a debit card and is loaded with a monetary benefit each month that can be used to purchase food. Most major grocery stores, including Safeway, QFC, Trader Joe’s, and Target, as smaller local and international markets are able to accept the funds.
Rollover Funds: An additional benefit of EBT is that unused funds will roll over from month to month. You can save up some extra dollars in anticipation of the winter holiday when the kids are home from school. You can also save up your EBT benefit to purchase a special holiday meal if you would like to. This is often particularly helpful for households with a low benefit amount. A $16 monthly benefit might not seem like much, but it can certainly add up over time and make it much easier to get food on the table over the holiday.
Fresh Bucks: Here in King County, we have an additional benefit to the Basic Food program called Fresh Bucks. The Fresh Bucks program doubles your dollars at farmers’ markets and some international markets nearby. When your $10 becomes $20, dinner is much more doable. Just swipe your EBT card at the information booth and you are on your way.
Food Banks: Food banks have gotten something of a bad rap over the years, reported to offer up a whole lot of canned goods and little else. While you can still get a can of beans if you would like to, many food banks have expanded far beyond this limited stock. In fact, many go out of their way to provide special holiday treats, such as egg-nog, candy canes, and spiral ham. Many also offer a wide range of produce, grains, meats, and other useful holiday items such as greeting cards and flowers. Just be sure to bring an ID and proof of address, such as a recent bill, so they can verify that you are utilizing the food bank meant for your zip code.
If you are interested in learning more about food resources for your family while the kids are off from school, please give us a call! We are available to answer questions and assist with applications via our Family Health Hotline at 1 (800) 322-2588. Our friendly staff is available from 8:00am-5:00pm Monday – Thursday, and Fridays from 8:00am-5:00pm. Additionally, if you need help locating a food bank or farmers market near you, you can also visit www.ParentHelp123.org
Happy Holidays from us here at WithinReach!
Health Insurance Open Enrollment Through January 15th 2018!
Post originally written by Cristina Cardenas, Outreach & Enrollment Specialist.
This year’s Open Enrollment period for health insurance in Washington state through the Washington Health Plan Finder continues through January 15, 2018. For health insurance plans that are active starting January 1st, a plan must be selected by Friday, December 15th, 2017.
With the deadline for coverage coming, here are some considerations to make while you are looking to purchase a Qualified Health Plan:
Do you have a specific doctor’s office or clinic in mind?
What plans are currently accepted by that doctor or clinic?
While picking an insurance plan, one of the most important factors is being able to use that insurance for services at a clinic or doctor’s office with which you would like to work. If you have a specific health clinic or provider in mind, you’ll want to make sure they accept the insurance you choose. While shopping on Washington Healthplanfinder, the health insurance marketplace for Washington state, you can check which insurance plans are accepted by clicking the “Who’s Shopping” box, located on the upper left-hand side of the QHP selection screen. You will be able to search by your provider’s name, hospital, or zip code. Be sure to call the office to confirm if the plan is accepted and get the most updated information!
Do you have any chronic health conditions or specialty care needs?
Are any of your typical medical needs listed under the excluded services?
Although all health insurance plans listed on the exchange are required to cover the Ten Essential Benefits, you’ll want to spend some time looking into the details of the plans you are considering to see what other services may or may not be covered. This is especially important if you have any specific medical needs or services you know you will be seeking. You’ll want to make sure the plan you pick is going to work the best for you and your health.
To see more details about the plan, click the link that says “More information on this plan,” located under the name of each plan option on the shopping page of Washington Healthplanfinder.
What is your monthly budget for health insurance?
Are there any tax credits and/or cost-sharing available to you?
There are many factors to consider when deciding which health insurance plan might be most affordable for you or your family. Every plan has a different amount for what you must pay from your own pocket before the insurance company will help you pay for your healthcare. There are five insurance payment terms to keep in mind:
- Premium—the monthly payment you make to ensure you have coverage.
- Deductible—the amount you will need to pay yourself for healthcare services before the insurance company starts to pay for healthcare costs.
- Copayment—An amount you pay for a covered healthcare service after the deductible has been met. This may vary depending on the service.
- Co-Insurance—the percentage of the bill you are responsible for before the deductible is reached. For example, a 20% co-insurance means that you pay 20% of the bill and the insurance company pays 80%.
- Out-of-Pocket Max—the maximum amount you can pay in a year. After this is reached, all covered services will be paid for by the insurance company
At first glance, a low monthly premium might seem like the most affordable option, but these plans tend to come with a higher deductible. That means that if you have an unplanned medical need or accident, you may end up paying more out of your own pocket since the deductible needs to be met before the insurance company will help you pay.
You might also qualify for help paying for your insurance through government subsidies. If your income is under 400% of the federal poverty level (or $8,200/month for a family of four), you may qualify for tax credits that help pay for the monthly premium, or cost-sharing reduction to help reduce your out of pocket expenses!
On Washington Healthplanfinder, you are able to customize your search using the categories on the left-hand side and narrow your selections to plans within the range of what you may be comfortable paying. You can also see more detailed information about the cost
What is the size of the network for this plan?
Do I have to stay “in-network?
Will I need a referral to see a specialist?
Another aspect to keep in mind while picking a health insurance plan is the type of network available to you. The plan network includes physicians, hospitals, and other healthcare providers that have agreed to provide medical services at pre-negotiated prices and rates. There are three different categories:
- Health Maintenance Organization (HMO)—This type of plan limits coverage to care from doctors who work for the insurance organization. Services by providers outside of the network will most likely not be covered. Your doctor, or primary care physician as they are usually called, will help to coordinate your care and provide referrals to see specialists.
- Preferred Provider Organization (PPO)—In this type of plan, you will save more money seeking services from providers who are part of the plan’s network. You can see doctors, hospitals, and/or specialist outside of the network without a referral, but they may end up costing you more.
- Exclusive Provider Organization (EPO)—This plan will require you to see providers within the network to have your services covered. Any services by out-of-network providers will not be covered.
Each of these types of plans have their pros and cons, so to help you make a decision, you’ll want to ask yourself how flexible you would like your health insurance plan to be.
Even with a list of questions to help you find the best plan, we here at WithinReach realize that it can still be overwhelming to sift through all the information. That is why we are here to help! By calling our Family Health Hotline at 1 (800) 322-2588, we can walk you through the whole application process and help you narrow down your plan options!
WithinReach ICC Updates: COFA Migrants
Introducing a New Blog Category!
At WithinReach we have committed to improving overall health and health equity as one of our Strategic Direction priorities. For the last decade here at WithinReach, we have had an internal staff committee, the Intercultural Competence Committee (ICC), dedicated to recognizing, respecting, and responding to diversity within ourselves, our organization, and our community. Cultural competence at WithinReach is a commitment to promoting equity through culturally responsive evolution of behavior, policy, and organizational structure. We are working to foster awareness and appreciation of the diversity of our clients, our partners and ourselves. All policies and programs reflect WithinReach’s value of cultural responsiveness and promote health equity.
Every month we have an internal staff training and discussion on a different topic pertaining to the diversity and inclusion of different groups in our community. We hope to use this new blog category to share back with you what we, our community partners, and our leaders are learning and talking about! We are dedicated to the work that we think is important to our community.
Next week, we are looking forward to hosting this quarter’s Washington Coalition on Medicaid Outreach (WCOMO) in Federal Way with the topic of Health Insurance and accessibility for The Compact of Free Association (COFA) migrants in our community. Last year, several of our Outreach staff attended the COFA Community Forum and learned about the history of the The Compact of Free Association Treaty and history with the United States. Currently, COFA migrants are excluded from accessing federal programs like Medicaid. This quarter’s WCOMO panel will feature a discussion with Michael Itti, Executive Director, Washington State Commission on Asian Pacific American Affairs (CAPAA) and Senator Rebecca Saldaña, Senator from the 37th Legislative District about the current state of health care access for COFA migrants and the upcoming legislative session for bills HB 1291 and SB 5683 and what could change.
For more information on COFA migrants and history, see below!
Migration history from COFA territories (Mother Jones)
The legacy of radiation exposure in Micronesia(Social Medicine)
Podcast: Breastfeeding Equity with Kimberly Seals Allers
Hear from Kimberly Seals Allers, author and advocate for breastfeeding health equity, about the challenges breastfeeding moms face in the United States. It’s not just an issue of support in and outside of the hospital, but a more complex issue of big business, equity, and cultural norms on this episode of the WithinReach Podcast.
A New Year of Service: AmeriCorps 2017-2018
Written by Rebecca Wolfe and Samuel Massion, WithinReach AmeriCorps Outreach & Enrollment Specialists
There are eight new members of the WithinReach AmeriCorps team. We all have different stories and different histories that we bring with us into this year of service. Each of us has a particular sense of self that is now situated within the context of this place—this organization, this city, this country, this world. This year will be a year full of opportunities; a year to expand our knowledge, grow as individuals, and serve our community. WithinReach is an organization with more than 6000 resources available to the people of Washington, specializing in food access, healthcare access, immunizations, transportation, and child development. So, as the new kids on the block, we have a lot to learn. We’re here, though, and we’re really excited about it.
In our training these last few weeks we have talked a lot about the “social determinants of health”—those non-biological, non-genetic factors that affect our health. This includes things like the quality and consistency of our food, our access to medical care, whether and how we are employed, and our level of education. Recent studies have shown that a person’s zip code is as predictive of health outcomes as is their genetic code. We can’t change our genetics, but we can make healthy food and quality healthcare more accessible. One simple interaction—a conversation, an application, or a resource that informs our community and facilitates access to social services—can turn a “determinant” of health into an “influence.” We can provide a bridge to the services that can help mitigate a particular point of stress—preventing unsurmountable healthcare costs, providing travel from point A to point B, or putting dinner on the table that night. These small shifts can make a big impact, changing circumstances for the better and offering hope for a healthier future.
The AmeriCorps team members are some of the first at WithinReach to start our training with our organization’s new client intake system, called REACH. REACH is a screening tool developed by Health Leads for hospital settings, with WithinReach acting as the program’s first non-clinical setting. Using this in conjunction with our iPad technology offers us the tools to identify multiple needs, analyze trends in our area, and to address issues as needed. Now, with the new technology, we have the means to provide in depth follow ups for better client care coordination. REACH fosters a holistic approach to helping clients, leading us in a conversation that makes sure both participants are acting as and being seen as full and whole humans.
This human experience is something that all of us are excited about. We are already improving our social skills, learning new patterns of communication. We are learning not to assume things about our clients, allowing them agency and self-determination as they tell us their story. We are learning to meet people where they are at—physically, mentally, emotionally, and socially. We are learning to listen, seeking first to understand. We are learning to ask questions, to rely on each other, and to grow together in this process. We are learning to take on the attributes of our organizational mission—to be friendly, informed, and responsive. This collaborative experience has already been enriching and rewarding, and we are grateful for it.
Each of us are planning to pursue a different area of health and social service after our year here. We know that the people we meet and the things that we learn will inform each of our journeys moving forward. And we all look forward to continuing to learn more from the people we work with, both in and out of our office.
We know that there is much to be done in this field of work. We know that we cannot help everyone or solve everything, and sometimes that feels overwhelming. We know that we can’t change the world by helping one person, but we can help change something in that person’s world. We can make a difference for the person sitting in front of us. That matters, and we are excited about it.
If you or someone you know is interested in assistance from WithinReach or would like to look for resources in person with one of our AmeriCorps Outreach and Enrollment Specialists, call our Family Health Hotline today at 1 (800) 322-2588
A continued conversation with Jessika Houston, Arc of Whatcom County
At WithinReach, we get to engage with families who are on a wide spectrum of places in their journey with a diagnosis of a special health or developmental need. Sometimes a family is just learning of a diagnosis prenatally, and sometimes they have many years of experience. The Arc of Washington and its nine regional chapters are excellent resources for families who are looking to connect around developmental disabilities, wherever they are on their journey.
We spoke with Jessika Houston, Down syndrome Outreach and Young Adult Self-Advocacy Coordinator at the Arc of Whatcom County to learn more about how she works with individuals and families with developmental disabilities:
“Down syndrome Outreach is a program that exists for individuals with Down syndrome, their family members, friends and caregivers from birth through life. We provide resources, information, advocacy support, and connect families and individuals in our community to support one another on their journey. There are annual support events specific to Down syndrome Outreach (DsO), such as the Buddy Walk in October and the Spring Fling in May.
On World Down syndrome Day (which is March 21), our community helps to bring awareness to their schools and work places about Down syndrome. The goal is to focus on honoring and appreciating our differences, all of them, and therefore encouraging the celebration of our differences and bringing support to all ages. In Whatcom County, there is a vision of change and inclusion for future generations. This has really determined the focus of an aspect of the work I do with DsO, which is to support new families.
When I started at The Arc I heard from our community the need to strengthen the supports for new families with a diagnosis of Down syndrome. There are many misconceptions and stereotypes about people with disabilities, and as Down syndrome is a chromosomal condition, we are able to learn of the diagnosis in the prenatal and postnatal stages.
The opportunity to provide support and resources at the time of diagnosis is one that historically has been missed in the Down syndrome community worldwide. In addition, many families have experienced negative interactions when receiving the diagnosis, with a lack of support and resources.
If families receive the diagnosis and then are told to seek out their own resources, they are vulnerable to inaccurate and prejudicial information. This does not fully engage and support this new family. Despite the challenges, countless families and self-advocates have been propelled from their experiences and helped to create policy which has shifted the dynamic in which families receive support.
In June 2016 in Washington State, the Down syndrome Information Act was passed in legislature. The law came forth because self-advocates spoke out about the impact on their families, and their vision of necessary support to new families.
The 2016 Down syndrome Information Act states: Medical Professionals are to provide materials to families at time of birth or pre-natal stages in delivering a likelihood of a diagnosis. Medical professionals affected by this bill are: midwife, osteopathic physician and surgeon & osteopathic physician’s assistant, physician & physician assistant, nurse, genetic counselor, hospitals, birthing centers & anyone/place in above categories that provide a parent with a prenatal or postnatal diagnosis. The WA State Department of Health has been working in response to this Law, and I have had the chance to connect with them in detail to discuss how we can ensure it is accessible and followed through by medical professionals in Washington State.
This past March, we held a statewide webinar regarding this issue. I am so grateful for the opportunity to be a part of something that we can now utilize as a resource supporting new families across the state. It has been incredible to see different communities and organizations from all over Washington come together to connect about these important issues to empower families and improve systems of care and support.
Before this law was passed, connecting with medical professionals and providing resources to them about this condition, is something I worked to bring to our local community. I have had the chance to present to various meetings with obstetricians, nurses, and midwives, and will continue this work as practitioners become more familiar with this new law. The main message I hope to convey to medical professionals is that the support, resources, and language that is used to give the diagnosis greatly impacts how the family will view their child and how they will utilize the resources available to them.
Through this work I have learned that by opening up our perspectives and working to be a resource, we are able to create systems of support that will sustain through time. They will persevere, find strength and challenges in new and unexpected ways and help transform thinking that includes all abilities and backgrounds.”
You can find more information about this work at the Department of Health here: http://www.doh.wa.gov/YouandYourFamily/InfantsandChildren/HealthandSafety/GeneticServices/DownSyndrome
And read more about the programs at the Arc of Whatcom County here: http://arcwhatcom.org/
Tags: Advocacy care community resources Developmental support diagnosis Disability Down syndrome Down syndrome Information Act states Down syndrome Outreach education programs empower families improve systems intellectual & developmental disabilities Medical Professionals support The Arc Washington state Whatcom County Young Adult
Family and Professional Connections: Promoting Self Advocacy at the Arc of Whatcom County
Through our work with special health and developmental resources, WithinReach has had the great pleasure to partner with agencies such as the Arc of Washington. The Arc is part of a national network dedicated to advocacy, community building, and resource referral for individuals with developmental disabilities and their families. Washington has nine chapters in King, Snohomish, Whatcom, Cowlitz, Grays Harbor, Kitsap/Jefferson, Spokane, Benton/Franklin, and Clark counties.
Part of the advocacy work that the Arc does is to support the perspective and rights of self-advocates, who are individuals with disabilities. To hear more about this important work, we reached out to Jessika Houston, Down syndrome Outreach and Young Adult Self-Advocacy Coordinator at the Arc of Whatcom County. Jessika was gracious to share with us her personal connection to this work, and what it means to her to be in this role:
“My work at The Arc directly relates to my personal life, as I am the sister of a young adult with Down syndrome, Mike. Mike has truly been one of the largest sources of inspiration for me and the path I have taken. I could not be more grateful for him in my life, for all that he has taught me and my family. From him I have learned persistence, patience, compassion, acceptance, resilience, will and grace, and the beauty of living in the moment. When I think of the strengths of living in a neurodiverse family, it comes back to those qualities in him that he has the ability to teach everyone that crosses his path. With him, there have always been moments that we wish we could just capture and visit any time we wanted – the moments that make you love life and trust exactly where you are.
And, in thinking of the challenges – those same qualities can come through, in a different light. The moments when Mike is so frustrated, trying to find the way to articulate what he needs or wants, and seems so tired and overwhelmed with…persisting, having patience…when acceptance of the situation cannot happen and the will takes over…those times are when you wish the moment would just end. There are also challenges that come from those that may not know about Down syndrome and how to engage someone with a disability. Yet, it is the moments of challenge that seem to inspire me the most.
After he was born, I found myself asking questions like: Why are people so afraid of what is different? How can I help? How can I learn about other perspectives? How can I be a resource to my family, my brother, my community?
I first learned of The Arc when I worked as a Living Skills Specialist for a supported living agency in Bellingham. My brother, without knowing it, inspired me to work there so I could learn more about what life as an adult can look like, how to advocate with and for someone, learn about independent living, how to help navigate the supports in someone’s life and discover what resources exist in the community.
In the Young Adult Self Advocates program, we talk about our visions, our goals and aspirations, and acknowledge the challenges and barriers that might exist. Self-Advocates are involved in community awareness projects, as well as focus on their individual skill building. They are also passionate about advocating in legislation for their individual needs, which also reflects needs in our community such as employment, housing, recreation, caregiver wages, among others. They aim to “Be Proud. Be Strong. Be Heard.“
If you are interested in learning more about the Arc of Whatcom County and the Young Adult Self Advocate program, visit http://arcwhatcom.org
Tags: Advocacy community community resources Developmental support Disability Down syndrome education programs Independent living intellectual & developmental disabilities Resources Special Health Care Needs The Arc Whatcom County Young Adult
Measles Outbreak in MN Shows King County is Vulnerable, Too
Guest post by Neil Kaneshiro, MD
Neil has been a pediatrician in Washington State for over two decades, and is currently serving as chair of the Immunization Action Coalition of Washington, which works to improve the health of the community by minimizing the incidence of vaccine preventable diseases through the optimal use of immunizations across the lifespan.
Vaccines have made a huge impact in protecting us from preventable diseases. But in some communities, immunization rates have dropped dramatically, creating the opportunity for diseases to return. A current outbreak in Minnesota shows what could happen in Washington.
Hennepin County in Minnesota is in the midst of a large outbreak of measles which is primarily affecting the Somali community there. There are over 60 cases at this point in time and the count is expected to rise because vaccination rates against measles in that community have plummeted from 92% in 2004 to just 42% in 2014. Measles is highly contagious and vaccination rates need to be well over 90% to prevent the spread of this horrible disease. It appears that the community was misinformed about the risks and benefits of measles vaccine by anti-vaccine celebrity Andrew Wakefield* who visited there on several occasions. Even in the face of overwhelming evidence based medicine showing vaccines are safe and effective, pediatricians and family physicians are confronted every day with parents who question vaccine safety and delay, defer or refuse one or more recommended vaccines.
Vaccine advocates are concerned about families who delay or decline vaccination because of outbreaks like the one currently active in Minnesota. With similar pockets of low immunization rates and regular measles exposures, King County is vulnerable to a similar outbreak. Although measles is much more likely to affect those unimmunized by choice, the vaccine is not 100% effective and measles can occur in a small percentage of people who did the right thing and got their vaccine. Also, there are those who are unimmunized because of medical condition or age since the vaccine is not recommended until 1 year of age.
First and foremost, vaccines protect those who receive them. But receiving vaccines in many cases also helps to protect your family, friends and neighbors from disease as well. Talk to your doctor about keeping up to date in child and adult vaccinations (yes, adults need vaccines too). If everyone eligible for vaccines got immunized, we would be a healthier community.
*For those who don’t know, Andrew Wakefield is the researcher from the United Kingdom who tried to link MMR (measles, mumps and rubella) vaccine and autism. But his research has been discredited and his medical license revoked. Extensive research has shown that there is no link between vaccines and autism. Leading autism advocates including Alison Singer, president of the Autism Science Foundation have concluded that vaccines do not cause autism.