On January 12, 2016, the Schubert Center hosted Dr. Nazha Abughali and Dr. Christine Alexander-Rager of MetroHealth for “Innovative Partnerships for Healthy Children and Youth” as a continuation of the 2015-2016 Conversation Series. They spoke about partnerships that MetroHealth has established with Cuyahoga County Division of Child and Family Services (DCFS) and Cleveland Metropolitan School District (CMSD).
Dr. Abughali spoke about the foster care medical home program partnership that exists between the Cuyahoga County Division of Child and Family Services and MetroHealth. Those who conceived the program did so in an attempt to unify care for children in the foster care system. Of children entering foster care, one-third have a chronic medical condition, 80% have a significant mental health need, almost 40% have oral health issues, and about 60% of children under the age of 5 have developmental health issues. Overall, the goal is to provide initial triage with a provider familiar with the particular needs of foster care children, followed up with a comprehensive medical, psychological, and dental care program.
Dr. Alexander discussed the school health program in which MetroHealth partners with the Cleveland Metropolitan School District. This program was founded based on the idea that children learn better when they’re healthy. Early intervention can set someone up for a lifetime of health. To try to alleviate access problems, the program with CMSD allows for parents to make a health appointment for their children at their school, based on their own concerns and needs or based on a reference from another individual such as a school nurse. To do so, they use what they refer to as “hubs” such as a mobile clinic or a clinic set up at a central school. Nurses are a crucial piece to this program, as they often know the children and their needs. Although this program has only existed for about three years, Dr. Alexander points to the importance of slow growth, and is proud that they have begun to address the “tsunami of need” evident in the community.
Dr. Alexander-Rager and Dr. Abughali were joined by respondents Deborah Aloshen of the Cleveland Metropolitan School District and Karen Stormann of the Cuyahoga County Division of Child and Family Services.
Karen Stormann provided the perspective of the Division of Child and Family Services. The DCFS currently has around 1800 children in custody. When children come into care all are triaged. This triage happens often during off hours, and often immediately after children have experienced a traumatic situation, so Stormann discussed the importance of the reduction of trauma and the continuity of care that a centralized service provides. Stormann suggested that some current considerations and focuses are to ensure that older children transitioning out of foster care have a primary care physician.
Deborah Aloshen provided the perspective of the Cleveland Metropolitan School District, and particularly of school nurses. She pointed out that this program not just expands the accessibility of health care, but that it also serves as a teaching opportunity not just for children but also for parents who may not know how to navigate the health care system. She also highlighted the helpfulness of this program because of its ability to provide health care to students whose parents may not follow through on their medical needs.
The Schubert Center would like to thank co-sponsors MetroHealth, Cleveland Metropolitan School District, and Cuyahoga County Division of Child and Family Services.