Navigating the healthcare system can be challenging for anyone. The recent coronavirus pandemic has made it even more difficult for the families we serve to access services for their chronic conditions.
Our dedicated team of care coordinators on our Health Connections team have stepped up to ease the fears of the children and families we serve. Normally, they manage doctors’ appointments, medications, and paperwork so that families can focus on treatment and children can focus on staying healthy and succeeding in school.
But schools have been cancelled and the challenges our families face – hunger, homelessness, job insecurity, and limited access to medical and mental health care – have become even more daunting during a pandemic.
Care Coordinator Debra DeTeresa has transitioned from doing house visits to providing aid through the phone. She helps families who are caring for children with medical and behavioral conditions like autism, asthma, anxiety, ADHD, and more.
One of the families she serves came to Children’s Aid in July 2019 looking for resources for their child with autism. The family is currently living in a shelter and the mother has found it increasingly difficult to find work as a housekeeper.
Her children usually eat breakfast and lunch at school but must now rely on meals provided by the shelter, which are “less than appetizing, even causing stomach issues,” Debra said.
So she stepped up, and in addition to helping the family with their medical needs, has linked them with other resources. Debra informed them about the more than 400 sites offering free meals to children while schools are closed. She continues to follow up with them to make sure all of their needs are met.
Care Coordinators are also important in helping to stop the spread of the virus, she said.
“During these unprecedented times, the work our program provides is more important than ever,” she said. “During the COVID-19 pandemic, our families can come to us in the event they are exhibiting any symptoms and we are able to direct them to what the appropriate steps are, in order to minimize additional spreading of the virus.”
Many doctor’s appointments are being cancelled due to the government’s efforts to encourage social distancing. Debra and our Health Connections staff, who normally focus on scheduling doctor appointments, are pivoting to connect families to medical professionals via telehealth.
“We are able to assist our families in figuring out how to access the Telehealth services so that there are minimal to no lapses in the children’s services at this time. We also find other available providers if necessary,” Debra said. “We focus on the needs of the children and will continue to do whatever we can to support them during this challenging time.”
Children's Aid's Health Connections program is a downstream provider of the Children's Health Home of the Collaborative for Children and Families.