Commission for Children With Special Health Care Needs

jackie RichardsonCoordinating  Care for Thousands of Kids

When Jackie Richardson interviewed for the Executive Director’s job four years ago for the Commission for Children with Special Health Care Needs (an agency within the Cabinet for Health and Family Services), it took no time to realize that her professional and personal life had prepared her perfectly for the position.

She was the ideal candidate.

Previously, she had served as the Chief of Staff at Louisville’s Department of Public Health and Wellness, she worked as the CFO for the Louisville Zoo and was the Internal Auditor of Operations for the City of Louisville.

She checked all the boxes for professional leadership.

And as the mother of three daughters, including twins with Down syndrome, she had used the Commission’s services without realizing it.

The twins, now 17, had hearing issues when they were young.

Although Down syndrome isn’t a diagnosis covered by the program, the twins were able to receive audiology services for hearing issues

Audiology is only one of a myriad of services that the Commission provides for Kentuckians under 21 years old with special health care needs.

With 12 clinics statewide and partnerships with a broad range of health-care providers, the Commission touches many lives – 82,000 services to 9,400 unduplicated clients in 2015.

Those services include conditions ranging from asthma and cerebral palsy to heart problems to spina bifida.

The Commission’s clinics are positioned so that no one in Kentucky is more than 90 minutes away from service.

In its clinics, doctor’s offices or other health-care settings, the Commission provides services ranging from physical, occupational and speech therapy to surgery, medication management and dental care.

Perhaps its most valuable service is health-care coordination. As Richardson pointed out, the Commission helps patients with appointments, prescriptions, transportation and access to other services they need.

“We make sure there is no gap in services. We are the gap fillers,” Richardson said.

And the Commission, which works with Medicaid and private insurers, provides these services on a sliding fee scale for those who qualify.

Three of four patients who receive services have Medicaid. In addition, a child must meet the Commission’s medical eligibility criteria.

Recent innovations have expanded the Commission’s reach. Its Family to Family Health Information Center program trains parents to be consultants so they can assist other families. (Please see accompanying story).

The fastest-growing area of service is neurology, which accompanies the increasing number of children diagnosed with cognitive issues.

A pilot program for children with autism was so successful last year, care will now be provided statewide.

Another area of emphasis is helping children when they age out of the program. Starting at the age of 14, patients receive information about vocational rehabilitation, group homes and links to adult health-care providers because “we know these children are capable of living fulfilling lives,” Richardson said.

“We want children to have the highest quality of life possible.”

With all the positives the Commission provides, Richardson knows that more Kentucky children could benefit from its services.

“Our objective is to reach as many children as we can,” said Richardson, who cites the Commission’s outreach programs to schools and community events.

“Who are we missing? Who are we are not serving? Is there a barrier to care? We are always looking at these issues to make sure the state’s children get the care they deserve.”

Info: 1-800-232-1160 ext. 2039.

Photo: Jackie Richardson with her twin daughters Bailee, left, and Lynsey