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DHS News June 2012 | PDF Icon DHS News June 2012

Improving the Health of Foster Youth

Inadequate access to health care has long been a significant issue nationally for many children entering the foster care system. In an effort to improve health outcomes for local foster children, the Office of Children, Youth and Families (CYF) has partnered with UPMC’s Medicaid Managed Care plan, UPMC for you; Community Care Behavioral Health Organization (CCBHO) and the Pennsylvania Department of Public Welfare to implement the Foster Care (Health Information) Program.

The Foster Care (Health Information) Program began in 2008 with a grant from the Center for Health Care Strategies, Inc. The goals of the program were to identify all children in foster care who were covered by UPMC for you. Once these foster children are identified, the goal is to provide them with annual dental and well-care visits and behavioral health services, if needed.

“The logistics of running a program that overlaps several organizations was quite complicated at first: there were concerns about HIPAA compliance, organizational dedication to the program and the difficult task of identifying children in a timely, accurate way,” said Jacki Hoover, Program Manager in the Executive Office. “After a bit of trial and error, we finally found a system that works.”

Each week, CYF gives UPMC for you a file listing children who have entered into foster care. UPMC for you uses the list to scan through their members to find out if any match the foster care list. Once a child is identified, UPMC for you works to identify any health needs or gaps the child may be facing, focusing on key indicators like frequent emergency visits, gaps in immunizations or abrupt endings to behavioral health treatment. With this information, CYF caseworkers are able to link the child back to their former service providers or find a new service location that is more convenient. The goal is to get the child the health care services he or she needs within 60 days of entering the system.

One of the lasting benefits of the Foster Care (Health Information) Program is that it allows foster children to acquire and maintain an electronic health record (EHR). If a child switches homes, there is no worry in regards to retrieving paper records; consistent information regarding medication, immunization records and specialist visits are all maintained in the EHR. Caseworkers will have access to the information electronically via KIDS and provide information to biological parents and providers when necessary. Overall, the creation and use of the EHR will facilitate the continuity, and the coordination, of care received by children in the program.

Early results show the program has been effective in increasing access to care for the target population. Over the past three years, there has been a 48% increase in target foster care children who had an annual well visit, and a 25% increase in children who had an annual dental visit.

Organizations outside of Allegheny County are recognizing the profound impact that this program can have on children’s lives: Since its inception, the Foster Care (Health Information) Program has received awards and recognition, including honorable mention at Medicaid Health Plans of American Center for Best Practices Second Annual Awards Forum, and speaking requests from organizations in Washington, D.C. and San Francisco.

Given the Foster Care (Health Information) Program’s initial success, discussions are underway to expand the program and to replicate it with other Medicaid Managed Care Organizations operating in the County.

To learn more about the Foster Care (Health Information) Program, please contact Jacki Hoover at jacki.hoover@allegheyncounty.us or 412-350-5799.

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