Community connections for children with special health care needs
I have two children, both of whom occupy varying points on the autism spectrum (often depending on the day) with some other health issues thrown into the mix. As they have grown, so have their amazing personalities; so have the challenges. I suspect it is not all that different for parents of typically-developing children. Community can be particularly important for families with children who present unique challenges (and skills!) beyond the usual antics. However, for reasons from accessibility, to awareness, to stigma, those challenges/differences can be isolating.
Children and youth with special health care needs are those who have or are at risk for a chronic physical, developmental, behavioral, or emotional condition and who also require health and related services beyond what children generally require. For example, a child who has a developmental disability such as Down syndrome, as well as asthma or allergies, would be considered to have a special health care need. Another example might be someone with ADHD and diabetes. In Washington State, an estimated 235,920 children and youth under age 18 have a special health care need – that is 15% of all youth. Connection to health care, education, community, and family support are important factors in the quality of life for individuals with special health care needs and their families.
One important resource for children and families with a diagnosed or potential special health care need is Early Intervention, which is a system of services that can help infants and toddlers with disabilities or delays to learn key skills and catch up in their development. For children from birth to age three, Washington State Early Intervention providers offer free developmental evaluations and support services like speech, physical, or behavior therapy. These services “are designed to enable young children to be active, independent and successful participants in a variety of settings.”
In addition, Washington State has a robust and active family network of support when it comes to children and youth with special health care needs. From Parent to Parent, to PAVE , to the Father’s Network, caregivers with personal experience navigating the emotional and logistic complexities of special health care needs are an important resource. Whether you are just starting out on your journey, or have a question relating to a very specific diagnosis, chances are there is another family out there who has been down a similar path and can offer some experiential advice.
Raising children is hard and beautiful and humbling. It is a deeply individual, personal experience while at the same time having the capacity to be incredibly unifying. Parent and caregiver networks, supportive clinicians, and educational advocates have proved invaluable in my own journey to empower myself and my children to thrive and contribute as members of our local community. Working at WithinReach, I have the opportunity to help other families thrive, too.
To find out if your child would benefit from early intervention, ask your primary care provider or call our specialists at the Family Health Hotline (1-800-322-2588). This statewide, toll-free number offers help in English, Spanish and other languages.
You can find out more about peer support networks by calling the Answers for Special Kids line at 1-800-322-2588 or by visiting www.ParentHelp123.org.
Back to school…every day!
Leadership legacy is a gift. I started my new role with the recognition that I was stepping into it on the heels of amazing leaders – the women who envisioned, started, and grew WithinReach. Over the last year, I have channeled them often, AND I have learned from each and every member of our Board, all of whom have become teachers and guides for me. For 27 years, WithinReach has been blessed with the strength of smart, committed leaders. This history of strong leadership provides the vision, strategy, and stability we need to serve more families each year.
Trust is key. Over the last year, I have learned that the key to our success is trust. Do the families we serve every day trust that we will make the connections they need to live healthy lives? Do our donors trust that we will help them fulfill their vision for a healthier Washington? Do staff trust that their supervisors will help them do their best and more? Does the Board trust me to build on the successes of the past? I believe the answer is yes, because we are an organization that values integrity, quality, and compassion – all important pieces to building trust.
Plans are only as a good as they are nimble. As we continue to work our 3-year strategic plan, it is clear that our plans must bend and sway to match our ever-changing world. Our vision is a constant: everything we do is aimed at ensuring that all families have quality health care and adequate nutritious food to eat. And yet, when a measles outbreak hits like it did this year, we must be ready to respond – to redouble our efforts to ensure that every child in Washington is protected from vaccine-preventable diseases. It is our nimble, innovative, dynamic nature that makes us a true agent for change.
The CEO role is exciting and exhausting. It goes without saying that the CEO role is a big one, and my days are busier than ever before. They are busy because the opportunities to improve the health of all families in our state are beyond measure, and because the staff at WithinReach stand ready to examine, develop and implement each opportunity. Our smart, caring, and committed staff push themselves harder every day to make the connections WA families need to be healthy. I can only follow their lead.
One thing I know for sure… if my second year as CEO is anything like my first, I will learn new things each day. So, here’s to going back to school…every day!
A Call to End Summer Hunger
In Washington State, roughly 1 in 5 of all families with children struggle to put food on the table regularly. During the summer, the problem is exacerbated particularly for children who rely on meals from the free or reduced school lunch programs.
In hopes of ending summer hunger and addressing summer learning loss, the Summer Meals Program provides healthy, FREE meals for kids and teens under age 18 during the summer months. There are no citizenship or income requirements, and registration is also not required. The sites are held in various locations such as schools, community centers, libraries, YMCAs, parks and apartment complexes. Some of these sites have enrichment activities for children to help prevent summer learning loss so children are prepared to jump back into school come fall. This low-barrier program is a great resource for all families looking for something to do during the summer.
In King County, WithinReach has partnered with United Way of King County to reach a goal of serving an additional 82,500 meals this summer. WithinReach assists in the promotion of Summer Meals and serves as the local point of contact for families looking to locate a site close to them. Since February, our Summer Meals VISTA and Community Partnership team has partnered with school districts, attended community events, provided presentations to network meetings, and distributed materials to community organizations to promote the Summer Meals Program. It is a highly-needed resource in the community, but is often underutilized due to lack of awareness.
To continue the momentum of promoting Summer Meals, WithinReach hosted two Summer Meals Phone-a-thons on June 23rd and July 8th with volunteers to connect families to their nearest Summer Meals site.
At each event, our dedicated volunteers spent two hours in the evening at WithinReach’s office to make calls to families that had previously been assisted by WithinReach staff. Our 14 volunteers collectively made 385 calls, sharing Summer Meals information and offering to connect clients to their closest sites. Of the families they spoke to, 98% had never accessed Summer Meals, and many families indicated their appreciation in receiving a phone call. In addition to connecting families to Summer Meals, volunteers also made referrals to other services such as Basic Food benefits, health insurance and affordable housing options. While these events were largely successful in reaching new families that have never accessed Summer Meals, it also revealed that there is much more work that can be done.
Due to the great success of the events and work of volunteers, we have created a new volunteer opportunity for anyone that is interested in conducting Summer Meals calls on a more regular basis during WithinReach’s office hours. If you are interested, please contact Anna Balser at email@example.com for more information.
To find your nearest Summer Meals site please click here or text MEALS to 96859.
Goodbye and good luck to our AmeriCorps team!
Our amazing AmeriCorps team will be finishing their service at WithinReach next week. Their work as Outreach and Enrollment Specialists over the past 10 months helped families and individuals all over Washington access necessary nutrition and health resources. We are going to miss this team, but they are off do to more meaningful work in Washington and beyond! Check out where they’re headed, and what their time at WithinReach meant to them:
Jessica Vu: I’ll be doing another year of service as a VISTA member with Harvest Against Hunger and the South King County Food Coalition. We will be working to develop a farm that will grow produce for 12 food banks in South King County. In my year at WithinReach, I learned the value of engaging your community!
Kasey Johnson: I am applying to medical programs to become a family physician that serves a rural community here in Washington state. I am also planning to continue working with one of our community partners, the Edmonds Mobile Clinic. My year at WithinReach taught me so much; it’s been very exciting to be a part of broad change regarding health insurance and to see how public benefits are distributed and accessed by our community members experiencing poverty. This knowledge will be carried with me as I continue to serve my community and work toward change for its most vulnerable members: the poor and uninsured.
Chris Garrido-Philp: It has been a pleasure to get to know communities in King and Snohomish County through WithinReach. I have learned that the diverse people who access assistance through our state’s programs come from all walks of life. I plan to continue my learning of direct service work and overcoming barriers in the healthcare system through the University of Washington Master of Social Work program this fall.
Amber Bellazaire: In September, I will begin a Master in Public Health program at the University of Michigan. I look forward to implementing the knowledge gained through our community-based fieldwork as service members at WithinReach in my future studies.
Jodie Pelusi: I hope to use the communication skills/methods I learned in this position to better serve communities in the future while working in the PeaceCorps. I will be in Cameroon starting in the fall for 2 years as a Maternal and Child Health Specialist. I am interested in further developing resourceful methods to work with community members in creating their own solutions to the health disparities they face. This year has given me the courage to take initiative in my future goals.
Emma Lieuwen: I will be staying on at WithinReach and will continue to do outreach over the summer. I have learned there is a great need in Washington for food and health resources and there is plenty of work left to be done.
We are proud to be part of the journey for these future leaders! If you’re inspired to serve, check out the application to be part of the next wave of AmeriCorps members at WithinReach.
“I know that donations to WithinReach are very wise investments in our children and families, and I appreciate the hard work and dedication you all put into the work of the organization.”
This was a long-standing donor and friend of WithinReach—Carolyn Gleason’s—response when we called to thank her for fulfilling her annual pledge, and to ask her if she would continue to support our work on behalf of kids and families. Her answer over the phone was: “Of course!”, and then she sent the follow-up message above.
We were so pleased by her response, because this is exactly how we would like our supporters to think of us: as a ‘good investment.” A wonderful book titled “The Generosity Network” describes that ‘true generosity is rooted in relatedness.’ The authors note that all of us have vision for a better world; it is when we are able to connect with individuals and organizations who share our vision that real transformation happens in the world.
WithinReach makes the connections Washington families need to be healthy – and our connection with Carolyn and others like her are some of the most important connections we make on behalf of children and families.
Through our connection, we are investing in healthy communities, one family at a time.
Vaccine Education Across Language and Culture
By Judith Pierce, WithinReach Immunizations Graduate Intern.
From April 18-25, we’re celebrating National Infant Immunization Week. Did you know that routine childhood immunization in one birth cohort prevents about 20 million cases of disease and about 42,000 deaths? It’s pretty awesome. That’s why we work to ensure that all children in Washington have access to immunizations, and their parents have the information they need to make a good decision. Unfortunately, not everyone has the same access to health information. Below, our graduate intern, Judith Pierce, describes her work with us to help address one of these gaps.
In summer of 2014 I had just completed my first year of public health school, and was in search of a year- long project for my capstone requirement. I knew I wanted to practice skills in evaluation and data analysis, but I also wanted a project with content that would be able to hold my interest for a year. When I initially approached WithinReach’s Immunization program, I was really interested in their work with provider training and the Immunity Community, and assumed I would work on those projects. Instead, they gave me the opportunity to develop a community forum for Russian speakers. Through speaking with the Immunization team I learned that Russian speakers have the lowest childhood immunization rates of any population in Washington, and have had the lowest rates since 2008. This was incredibly interesting and I grew curious to learn more.”
Over ten months I researched the literature and spoke with key informants to better understand the historical context and social connections in Russian speaking populations that contribute to low immunizations rates. Much of the vaccine hesitancy we find in Russian speakers stems from confusion and frustration with the US immunization schedule, concerns of adverse reactions to the vaccines and an inability to find a Russian speaking provider to answer their questions. The Washington State Department of Health conducted a series of Russian speaking focus groups to identify major themes, and all four groups requested an event with a Russian speaking provider to address immunization concerns in a community forum. With help from Spokane-based health service providers, we were able to develop the community forum parents asked for. At the forum, parents expressed their frustration and fears about childhood immunizations to a Russian speaking pharmacist who was able to answer their questions and explain why the US immunization schedule is different from their home countries. At the end of the meeting, the majority of surveyed participants said they enjoyed the forum and were able to have their questions answered by someone they trusted. 40% said the forum changed their minds about immunizations.
With the measles outbreak at Disneyland and whooping cough on the rise in Washington, media pundits and bloggers often lay the blame squarely on a mythical homogenous anti-vaccination group. The reality is people have a variety of concerns, and those of us doing immunization work should not assume why a particular group has fears about vaccines. This project allowed me to not only develop skills and learn new content, but also develop an appreciation for programs, such as Washington State Department of Health’s focus groups, that actively seek to understand health disparities and find culturally appropriate ways to address concerns within a community.
For additional information on how to develop a community forum addressing vaccine concerns for Russian speakers, contact Sara Jaye Sanford, WithinReach’s Immunization Action Coalition of Washington Program Coordinator at: (206) 830-5175 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Coloring Isn’t Just for Kids
The last few weeks have been insanely busy for us. Responding to a wave of media requests in reaction to the recent measles, coordinating stakeholders across the state to help pass Breakfast After the Bell legislation, helping thousands of families apply for or renew their Apple Health coverage, bringing our experience and expertise with the Affordable Care Act to a Health Benefit Exchange Board meeting, attending listening sessions with the US Surgeon General, Vivek Murthy, MD, during his visit to Washington…..The list goes on and on – and our staff are always ready to step up, to say ‘yes’, to dig in and do more to make the connections WA families need to be healthy. Though this may be a recipe for success, it most certainly creates some stress.
That’s why I decided to share a recent Huffpost article at our staff meeting this week. The article, Coloring Isn’t Just For Kids. It Can Actually Help Adults Combat Stress., says that it has been found that coloring – that’s right, crayons and coloring books – has the power to reduce stress. In fact, the article says coloring “generates wellness, quietness and also stimulates brain areas related to motor skills, the senses and creativity”.
Many of us are ‘yellow pad doodlers’, so this makes sense. Not only did I share the article, but I offered staff the opportunity to color during staff meeting and beyond. Staff jumped in, and the accompanying picture highlights the result of our staff meeting coloring.
I realize coloring will not reduce the demands placed on our staff, or the crazy fast pace with which they work, but perhaps it brought a small moment of quietness to the day – and hopefully, the message that we care about the health and well-being of all WA families – including our own.
Tags: Affordable Care Act Breakfast After the Bell coloring creativity Health Benefit Exchange Huffpost Measles stress-relief vaccines Washington Apple Health Washington families Washington state WithinReach
AmeriCorps Week: Language is a source of empowerment!
There was one particular client story I walked away with from this experience that enhanced my perspective of language barriers. This client helped me see the other side of this complex barrier by showing me how much language is a source of empowerment.
Mariana** is a middle-aged Latin American woman who approached me toward the end of the event accompanied by a volunteer interpreter. She sat down and prefaced the conversation by saying that she wanted to try to communicate with me independently, but she also wanted the interpreter present in case there was any confusion. Mariana told me that she had recently become self-employed and was having difficulty navigating the exchange to choose a health plan for herself. The interaction was more drawn out than my usual interactions to confirm understanding on both ends; there were occasional tangents in Spanish until Mariana remembered that I didn’t understand. Since it was the end of the day, we weren’t able to complete the interaction with the purchase of her health plan so we exchanged information in order to complete it over the phone at another time.
In the following weeks we exchanged multiple phone calls so I could complete her application, explain the terminology surrounding insurance, guide her through the process of going to Staples so she could fax me her income verification, and finally purchase a plan.
In the months of my service I’ve had a wide range of final remarks from clients after finishing an interaction with them: “Finally,” or “glad that’s over,” as if the service was something I had withheld from them that I had finally granted. However, most of the final remarks are those of gratitude: “Thank you for making this easy for me,” and “thank you for being so kind.”
On my last phone call with Mariana she said, “Noelle, before you go I want to tell you something…” She thanked me first for assisting her with her application, but then went on to thank me for taking the time to understand her. She said that she had always been nervous about speaking English in public for fear of not being understood or taken seriously. She said she truly felt that our interactions had occurred in such a way where she understood what I was telling her and that I understood what she was trying to say.
Before my work with Mariana, I had seen my AmeriCorps service as a way to tear down the general systemic barriers that prevent people from accessing the resources they need. Now, I view my interactions with clients as opportunities to build bridges to resources despite these barriers. The value in our work comes from providing assistance that is personal and empathetic to the difficulties of navigating complicated systems.
**Client name has been changed to protect privacy.
All It Takes Is One Accident!
Edited by: Kari Geiger, WithinReach AmeriCorps Program Lead
The current deadline for enrollment is February 15th 2015! Create an account or log in to your account on www.wahealthplanfinder.org today to update your application and explore your options. For tips and tricks, check out some articles we wrote over the past year:
- What to consider when buying a Qualified Health Plan
- How to Apply For Health Insurance If Your Income Is Unpredictable
- Self employed? We Have Answers to Your Health Insurance Questions
- I bought health insurance through the Washington Healthplanfinder. What’s next?
Remember: The deadline to enroll is FEBRUARY 15th, 2015, so log on today or call us for help through our Family Health Hotline for assistance at: 1-800-322-2588!
Tags: Accident Family Health Hotline finances health insurance Health Plan Healthcare insurance coverage Open Enrollment out of pocket WA HealthPlanFinder Washington Health Benefit Exchange Washington state
From Magic Mountain to Measles – Get Vaccinated to Stay Safe!
Our Immunization Team will always advocate strongly for complete, on-time vaccination to protect health. We also recognize that all parents, even those who don’t immunize, do so out of an interest for the health of their children. As such, we’ll continue to foster dialogue about why immunization should be a community priority, especially featuring the voices of parents who choose to immunize, like those enrolled in our Immunity Community program. Many thanks to those parents who are working hard to ensure that children in Washington are protected from disease!
Being Prepared Over Feeling Invincible: Why Medical Insurance Is Important While You Are Young
Not Having Health Insurance Might Impact Your Family’s Finances!
Health insurance is a very broad term and could encompass a variety of health insurance plans. For the purposes of the Affordable Care Act health insurance coverage is determined by a standard called “minimum essential coverage”. If a health plan has this label, it means that it has met the federal standard of a quality health insurance plan. For many people the establishment of minimum essential coverage plans now provides a higher quality and broader scope of service from their health insurance providers than what was available prior to the Affordable Care Act. All minimum essential coverage plans must cover 10 essential health services that are outlined here. For a large number of people, the minimum essential coverage requirement has been met through their existing health plan. If not, the Affordable Care Act has created new health plan options.
Common types of minimum essential coverage:
- The vast majority ofemployer-sponsoredhealth plans
- All of theprivate health plans offered through the Washington HealthPlanFinder
- Apple Health plans offered through the Washington HealthPlanFinder
- TRICARE plans offered through the US Military
For some people, there will be no changes in their health plans or how they apply for health insurance. But for 41 million uninsured Americans , the enactment of the Affordable Care Act has opened new doors to affordable, accessible and quality health insurance coverage. In Washington State, new health insurance plans are now offered through the Washington HealthPlanFinder with government subsidies such as tax credits and cost sharing reductions to make the insurance more affordable for most individuals and families. Other programs, like Washington Apple Health, have expanded to allow more people to enroll in free and low-cost health insurance. These new options present viable opportunities for health insurance that have not existed in the past.
What happens if I did not get health insurance?
If an individual or family was not able to enroll in a health insurance plan in 2014, they could face a fee when they file their 2014 taxes. This fee acts as the enforcement piece of the Affordable Act Care and it is commonly referred to as the individual responsibility requirement. In order to make health insurance affordable and accessible to everyone, the majority of people need to participate. Fees acts as a way to hold each other accountable and keep the overall cost of health insurance low. The amount of the fee will vary by household. The basic fee schedule for not having health insurance in 2014 and 2015 is:
Are there any other options?
The fee is not designed to punish people that cannot afford health insurance or have experienced hardship. There are a number of reasons why someone may not have been able to enroll in health coverage over the past year. In response to the unique needs of individuals and families, the federal Health Insurance Marketplace offers exemptions that allow people to go insured for short periods of time or to be completely exempt from the individual responsibility requirement and therefore exempt from paying any fees associated with not having health insurance.
To find out more about the exemptions offered through the Health Insurance Marketplace and how to apply for them, call the Family Health Hotline at 1-800-322-2588 or contact us through our website: ParentHelp123.org
2015 Open Enrollment for the Washington HealthPlanFinder is happening now to February 15th. Call the Family Health Hotline to speak to a Health Insurance Navigator about your options: 1-800-322-2588.
 Kaiser Family Foundation. Key facts about the uninsured population. http://kff.org/uninsured/fact-sheet/key-facts-about-the-uninsured-population/
Tags: ACA Affordable Care Act Family Health Hotline fee exemption options Health Coverage Health Fee health insurance Health insurance enrollment marketplace ParentHelp123 TRICARE uninsured Washington Apple Health Washington HealthPlanFinder Washington state