Having a baby brings new parents a sense of joy — and a sense of wonder as you watch them learn and grow. But for families of kids with special needs, it can also bring a sense of worry as they work to ensure their children get the care they need.
The Macomb County Health Department’s Children’s Special Health Care Services (CSHCS) understands how complicated it is to navigate the health care and insurance industries, and it works closely with local families to help ease that burden.
“It’s our job to provide support and services so families can keep children out of extended care facilities,” Karla Anderson, the program manager for CSHCS, explains. “We help them manage care at home.”
How the county helps
Part of the way CSHCS — which is part of Title V of the Federal Social Security Act — does this is by providing states with grants that go toward maternal and child welfare and the health care needs of those with special needs to improve health outcomes and enhance quality of life.
“Our program reaches out to over 2,900 families that have children with over 27 different diagnoses from birth to 21 years of age,” Anderson says. “This also includes clients over the age of 21 with cystic fibrosis, hemophilia and related coagulation disorders. Conditions must be severe and chronic and must involve medications with intensive treatments.”
Anderson, who has a background in public health nursing, and her team of seven staff members — five of which are also public health nurses — work together to provide Macomb County families medication and medical supplies that their child needs, assist with billing and financial issues and offer temporary relief for caregivers.
“For families, this aspect of care can be frustrating, so it is extremely rewarding when we can help them find what they need,” Anderson says. “Just giving a mom or a dad an afternoon to go to the grocery store or run errands while someone watches over their child … it can be a huge relief.”
But the parents aren’t the only ones that receive benefits from CSHCS. The kids also benefit from the program with classes that help them transition to adult health care once they age out of youth health care.
“We sit down with these participants and educate them about what will change for them as they become adults,” Anderson adds. “We talk to them about HIPAA and guardianship, secondary school and insurance. They aren’t easy conversations to have, but they are important.”
The program isn’t just limited to the health care system. CSHCS also works to help local families build relationships with one another so that families have support from others who know what they’re going through.
Last year, for example, CSHCS held the Children’s Special Family Fun and Information night event, which offered educational resources and vendors for parents, along with face painting and games for kids.
That event could not be held in 2020 due to COVID-19, but CSHCS was still in constant contact with families through email and other virtual means.
“Supporting families with special health care needs has been a long-standing service of local public health departments,” says William Ridella, a health officer and current director of the Macomb County Health Department. “Our CSHCS program staff are genuinely committed to the families they serve and are passionate about providing much needed assistance.”
Anderson adds, “At the end of the day, our biggest goal is to try to make sure that families can keep kids at home and that they get the care they need knowing they have special needs. Our jobs are challenging yet joyful, (and) I am proud of what we do.”
For more information on CSHCS and the Macomb County Health Department, visit the Macomb County Department of Planning & Economic Development online.