Tag Archives: health care reform

Our impact in 2013

Looking back over the past year, Family Voices Colorado has a lot to be proud of:

The Dominguez family are among thousands helped in 2013
The Dominguez family are among thousands helped in 2013

We served more than 11,500 families and 4,500 professionals from June 2012 to May 2013, through a combination of direct assistance, trainings, print and electronic resources, and our Family-to-Family Health Information Network.

As a result of assistance/training provided by Family Voices Colorado, 91% of families report being better able to partner with health care providers in decision-making, 97% report that they are better able to find and/or learn about community services, and 94% report more confidence in getting necessary health care and services for their child with special needs.

Our team works hard to support families through the challenging tasks of securing services and resources for their children, and we celebrate when evaluations demonstrate that we are achieving our goals. You can read more about the context for our work in this Colorado Data Brief prepared by Family Voices National.

ConnectforHealthLogo-centered2In the last year, we have also launched two new program areas: Life Coaching through Your Life. Better. 24/7., and Health Coverage guidance through the Connect for Health Colorado Assistance Network. Through these programs, we are supporting young adults with behavioral health challenges in developing skills and making choices that will enable them to thrive, and helping individuals and families understand their options under the new health insurance marketplace.

"Guide to Transition" tool is a paper wheel that displays transition goals and tasks by age and life domainWhile our mission continues to focus on children and youth with special health care needs, we have identified a need for greater support to families and young people through the first part of adulthood. The transition from pediatric to adult health care systems can be challenging for any family, and those who live with disabilities or complex medical needs often encounter even greater obstacles to securing the services and support they need. Our Guide for Transition (also known as the “Transition Wheel”) was released to guide families through the tasks for each stage of adolescence approaching adulthood, and is now available in several other states through the national Family Voices network.

Sam Murillo, Director of Navigation Programs
Sam Murillo, Director of Navigation Programs

Finally, we expanded the hospital-based Family Navigator program from one staff person at Children’s Hospital Colorado to three staff, two of whom are at Children’s and one at Denver Health. We envision continued growth in this area as we demonstrate the tremendous benefits to children and families when they can receive referrals to community-based resources and services before leaving the hospital.

As we look forward to the months ahead, 2014 looks just as promising as 2013. For the past several months, we have been developing plans for a new project that will provide Personal (electronic) Health Records (PHRs) to support greater care coordination for low-income clients. These PHRs will be owned by the individual rather than by their health care provider. The planning stage has been funded by a grant from The Colorado Health Foundation, and we will soon apply for funds to support the full implementation of this vision.

Other areas of focus in the coming year include:

  • Expanding our capacity to assist families, who are calling in ever increasing numbers
  • Continuing to make sure that families’ voices are heard in policy conversations
  • Helping families navigate Medicaid expansion and the Affordable Care Act

Dancers in front of flaming heartAs we gear up for another exciting year, we hope you will join us for Hearts on Fire, which in 2014 will be a special Valentine’s Day happy hour fiesta. Be sure to register now to get the best price on tickets! Whatever your romantic status that day, we hope you’ll come and “wear your heart on your sleeve” for children and youth with special health care needs.

As always, we are grateful for your continued support and partnership with Family Voices Colorado in so many ways. If you need help navigating systems, accessing services, getting health coverage, or building capacity for system change, please give us a call!

Looking Back, Looking Ahead: Reflections from the Executive Director

Tom Rose, Executive Director of Family Voices Colorado
Tom Rose, Executive Director

Dear Friends and Supporters,

During the past year I have often been asked how Family Voices has weathered this time of transition, and what we are doing to prepare for the upcoming changes to the health care system. In case you, too, are curious, this is what we have been up to:

Infrastructure

Last September we moved our office to the Anschutz Medical Campus, which provides us with a state-of-the-art and accessible office in close proximity to partners like Children’s Hospital Colorado and JFK Partners.  In addition to high quality IT services and upgraded infrastructure, the new office was designed as a call center, which has enabled Family Voices to help more families with timely information and referral services.

Family Navigation

Of course, holistic Family Navigation and Advocacy are still a primary area of focus, with experienced Family Navigators working closely with interns from the University of Denver School of Social Work to assist families. Our internship program provides a rich experience in navigation, advocacy, and call center operations for first- and second-year Master of Social Work students. The renewal of our federal Family-to-Family grant funding has also been instrumental in providing the resources to expand our capacity for information and referral as well as family navigation.

Hospital-Based Family Navigation

Family Navigation services are in high demand, and since the first of the year we have expanded our services beyond the Neurology Clinic at Children’s Hospital to also include the Child Health Clinic.  This year we also began providing navigation services in partnership with Denver Health’s Special Needs Clinic.  We believe our hospital-based Family Navigators can play a key role in ensuring family-centered care, improving quality and outcomes, and reducing health care costs. (See related article for more details.)

Transition Program

Since 2011, Family Voices Colorado has been working on a pilot project funded by The Colorado Health Foundation to develop tools and processes that support youth and young adults with special health care needs in the transition from pediatric to adult care. In that time, the issue of transition to adulthood has become a big topic of discussion at the state and federal level, and Family Voices is well positioned to provide leadership in developing person-centered transition services in a variety of domains.

Our first tool is a Transition Guide that displays the tasks for each age level in five different domains: Life Skills for Emerging Adults, Family Involvement, School, Career Planning, and Health/ Health Coverage. In addition, this program is working to expand the network of adult providers who will accept young adults with special health care needs, and has expanded our transition services to include transition clinics at both Children’s Hospital and Denver Health. We have also recently launched a behavioral health transition program called Your Life. Better. 24/7. More to come on this program in a later edition.

Policy and Advocacy

Family Voices Colorado continues to speak on behalf of children and youth with special health care needs, their families, and the professionals who work with them at the policy level. With so many changes in the systems serving our families, it is critical that Family Voices continues to work closely with its advocacy partners to make sure systems become more person- and family-centered. This past year Family Voices has played a critical role in empowering families to share their stories with legislators and state agencies, explaining how recently implemented laws and regulations are affecting their day-to-day lives.

New Grants, Contracts, Projects and Opportunities

Recently Family Voices was awarded a project/planning grant of $118,000 from The Colorado Health Foundation for a project entitled Personal Health Records and Family Navigation: A Plan to Improve Quality and Expand Agency Capacity.  Over the next nine months, Family Voices will develop a plan for a pilot project that will utilize personal health records (PHRs) to improve the quality and expand the capacity of Family Voices navigation services for children and youth with special health care needs. As part of this project we will be working closely with the Colorado Regional Health Information Organization (CORHIO) to identify technical requirements and policy issues related to the connection of PHRs to Health Information Exchanges.

This is a huge opportunity for Family Voices to shape the future of personal health records, their feasibility as a navigation tool, and most importantly their usefulness to our clients and their families. Coming so soon after our selection as an Assistance Site for Colorado’s Connect for Health Assistance Network, this positions Family Voices to contribute in two significant components of Colorado’s implementation of the Affordable Care Act.

Moving on to our work around the state, due to the exceptional work performed by our Western Slope Family Navigator Colleen Roahrig, our contract with the Mesa County Partnership for Children and Families was expanded at their request to nearly $3,500 per month.  This, in combination with Colleen’s successful launch of the Mesa County Family Leadership Training Institute, has significantly increased our impact in that part of our state. Brava, Colleen!

We are pleased with these affirmations of Family Voices Colorado’s position as a trusted community-based and family-driven organization with a powerful voice in the world of health care policy and advocacy for young people with special health care needs. We are currently engaged in an organization-wide strategic planning and business model development project to ensure that we are tackling these challenges and opportunities in the most effective way possible.

Thank you for your support of our organization. Have a terrific summer day!

Tom Rose
Executive Director
Family Voices Colorado

Next article from July 2013 newsletter: Staff Spotlight on Suzette Elledge

Staff Spotlight: Suzette Elledge

Suzette Elledge is the Program Manager for Health Coverage, formerly responsible for coordinating the Medical Home Certification program, now moving into a role overseeing Family Voices’ involvement with the new health insurance marketplace, Connect for Health Colorado. Although her employment with Family Voices Colorado (FVC) began in 2009, she first got involved with us some 12 years ago, when her two sons, Jacob and Joshua, were diagnosed with autism.

Suzette with her two sons
Suzette with her two sons

Suzette explains, “Their diagnosis came only months apart and Joshua was receiving Early Intervention and Jacob was receiving services through a preschool program. My service coordinator shared resources with me and I called Family Voices to get help understanding everything that was happening and how to stay on track with their services.”

But prior to that diagnosis, Suzette had already accrued 17 years’ experience working in disability and family support service systems. She began working with families of children with special health care needs at the ARC of Sacramento (California) in 1984; studied Occupational Therapy and Psychology at San Jose State University; worked with Family Support Services of the Bay area in Family Preservation, Respite and Family Services; and taught at the Morgan Center in California.

After receiving her sons’ diagnosis, she says, she “decided not to continue to work in direct services since I was encompassed with them at home, but wanted to continue to serve families, so I worked as an Early Intervention Service Coordinator at Developmental Pathways.” She was working for CHP+ outreach and enrollment in 2007 when FVC approached her about joining the Board, and two years later, when a position opened up in the Family Support 360 program, she jumped at the chance to join the staff.

Susana Herrera and Suzette Elledge at Hearts on Fire 2012
Susana Herrera and Suzette Elledge at Hearts on Fire 2012

Those who know her well have experienced Suzette’s bubbly personality, her love of Tinkerbell and glitter; and her unabashed enthusiasm for her work:

“The absolute best part of my work is the people. From those I work with to those who I get a chance to collaborate with in the community, and especially the families. I have worked with probably thousands of families over the past almost 30 years and I continue to be inspired and humbled by the dedication and strength that I witness. When a family receives a diagnosis, whatever it is, it seems that something incredible happens: a strength, devotion and resilience that drives a determination that is both powerful and tender. I learn lessons every day from the experiences that I share with families.”

This summer, Suzette is working with Ileana Perez to prepare for FVC’s new role as an Assistance Site in Colorado’s Connect for Health Assistance Network. Suzette sees this work as aligned with the organization’s orientation toward staying on the forefront of new developments in the health care landscape so as to better assist consumers, especially families of children with special health care needs, who are often more frequent and more intensive users of systems than those with typical children and adults.

The work itself involves providing in-person assistance to customers of the new health insurance marketplace starting in October 2013. As part of the Connect for Health Assistance Network, Family Voices will serve clients across the state, helping individuals and families consider health plan options, apply for insurance affordability programs, and sign up for health coverage. Although anyone can call any assistance site, the focus for FVC’s outreach and support will be families of children with special health care needs.

Suzette is currently working on a degree in nursing from Colorado Christian University, and looks forward to serving families and individuals in a new way once her program is complete. In the meantime, she is a strong advocate not only for the families she serves, but for the organization as well:

“The most exciting thing Family Voices has to offer families is a team of people with an incredible amount of knowledge and understanding of the world of disability and what it takes to negotiate that successfully. We also work diligently at building and maintaining strong community partnerships so that we can have beneficial relationships with other entities and the work for families can be strengthened. The team understands the intricate rules and languages of systems and works with families to strengthen their knowledge and confidence. Families can know that they are not alone on this journey and I’m exceptionally proud to be a part of an organization that can say that.”

 

Next article from July 2013 newsletter: Bridging Hospital and Community: Family Navigator program expands.