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Instilling Confidence in Children and Youth with Special Health Care Needs

June is Children’s Awareness Month
By: Renée Dain, SVP, Strategic Partnerships & External Affairs

Did you know that the word ‘June’ relates to ‘children?’ It is derived from the Latin word ‘Ju-Ven-Is’ which translates to ‘youth.’ This is why the month of June was chosen for Children’s Awareness Month. Children’s Awareness Month, which was initially founded in the loving memory of all the children who have died violent deaths in America. Over time it has evolved into something bigger. Children’s Awareness Month has become a time to spend nurturing and cultivating the joys and treasures of childhood. This month focuses on awareness of ways to encourage, support, and educate children, while prioritizing their health and well-being.

Nearly 51% of the people The Coordinating Center serves are children and youth with special health care needs. Our focus is on helping children and youth access the medical and community-based services they need to excel and feel a sense of normalcy and belonging.

We recently sat down with Fay Alexander, Team Manager for VIPhysicians&Kids, to learn more about the ways in which VIPhysicians&Kids is helping children and youth excel.

What is VIPhysicians&Kids?

VIPhysicians&Kids is a patient-centered medical home program for children and youth with special health care needs, one of several programs at The Coordinating Center that supports this population. We recognize that providing effective care coordination can be challenging and complex, especially for children and youth with special health care needs who receive care from numerous providers and systems. That is why VIPhysicians&Kids partners with pediatric practices, the child/youth, and their family to deliver a collaborative self-management, care coordination model. Participants can expect our experienced team to help them address barriers in care, develop a shared care plan and find resources that best fit their family’s needs.

What qualifies as a special health care need?

Children and youth with special health care needs are those who have or are at increased risk for chronic physical, developmental, behavioral, or emotional conditions and who also require health and related services of a type or amount beyond that required by children generally. CYSHCN can have a wide range of conditions and diagnosis, such as autism spectrum disorder, mental and behavioral health needs, sickle cell disease, spina bifida, traumatic brain injury, fetal alcohol spectrum disorder, cystic fibrosis, diabetes, and other conditions.

What types of services are offered?

VIPhysicians&Kids puts participants at the center of their care, working with their health care team to create a personalized plan to reach their goals. Our team collaborates with providers and participants to close gaps in care and address social determinants of health. We offer a one-stop shop for medical and non-medical resources and services and we provide person- and family-centered care coordination services. The VIPhysicians&Kids team can support discharge planning from hospital-to-home, school transitions and transitions to adult services.

How does VIPhysicians&Kids support children and youth with special care needs in building confidence, pride, and self-esteem?

One of the things that we excel in is helping children and youth who are approaching the age when they prepare for the transition from adolescence to adulthood. We work with the youth and the family to prepare them for the adult approach to health care and other adult services. We teach them about the importance of self-care and self-advocacy. Knowing their health and health care situation and needs, the medications they take, how to speak with their doctor about their medical needs and how to talk to their health insurance company are just a few examples of what we teach. We also offer participants a quarterly newsletter that focuses on advocacy and have created trainings for this as well.

What are some additional resources for transitioning youth?

Great question! We recently developed the Milestone Checklist in partnership with families and The Coordinating Center’s Transitioning Youth Committee, which is comprised of care coordinators with expertise in transition services for Children and Youth with Special Health Care Needs, (CYSHCN) across all The Coordinating Center’s programs. This Checklist is a guide for navigating the path from birth through life after high school for children and youth with special health care needs. It’s available on our website (Click HERE for Milestone Checklist).

Can you tell us a little bit about yourself and what you love about working at The Coordinating Center?

I am the team manager and a certified community health worker for the VIPhysicians&Kids program. I’ve been with The Coordinating Center since October 2016 and with the VIPhysicians&Kids program since July 2020.

What do I love about working at the Coordinating Center? I am afforded the opportunity to work with a team and for an organization that truly cares about the clients and families we serve. Through the VIPhysicians&Kids program, I am able to come alongside families who are trying to navigate services for their CYSHCN. Each family has their own unique story, journey, and needs, and I love being able to support the families and be part of their support network. Getting to see the families and clients grow in their advocacy skills is also another amazing aspect of this role.


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