Catholic Charities of Broome County to lead Health Home initiative

By Katherine Long

Editor

New York State has contingently designated Encompass Catholic Charities Children’s Health Home, a multi-agency initiative led by Catholic Charities of Broome County, to provide care management coordination for high-need children across Upstate New York.

“Health Home” is something of a misnomer, said Lori Accardi, executive director of Catholic Charities of Broome County. A Health Home is not a physical residence, she explained, but a virtual place to house all care planning processes, a centralized hub to help assess an individual’s needs and link him or her to services.

Children’s Health Homes serve children (and their families) who are Medicaid-eligible and who have challenges such as chronic health conditions, serious mental illness or emotional disturbance, or trauma due to abuse or neglect. A strengths-based, family-driven approach allows families to determine their needs and services and, with the help of a case manager, “put together a team that will hopefully make a difference,” Accardi said. As children move in and out of systems, she said, their care managers can move with them.

“The idea is that care will be better integrated through a care management process,” Accardi said. “There will be more opportunities to do prevention, and through coordinating primary health care [and] behavioral health care, there will be few barriers to getting services for children and their families.”

Information technology will play a key role, Accardi noted. “One of the main components is [to use] information technology to connect with the regional health information organizations that are the depositories of people’s health information. Then, with their consent, you’re able to see what services they’ve been provided and help coordinate their care at a better level than ever before,” she said. “The overall aim is to help keep children and their families out of emergency rooms and from being admitted to hospitals and having readmissions.”

Catholic Charities of Broome County has been a Health Home for adults in Broome County for three years, which positioned the agency to also serve children, Accardi said. Consultation with the New York State Council of Catholic Charities Directors led to several diocesan agencies joining the application. Encompass Catholic Charities Children’s Health Home is composed of the Catholic Charities agencies of the Albany, Buffalo, Ogdensburg, Rochester and Syracuse Dioceses, and will serve children in the 48 counties encompassed by those dioceses.

Encompass’ exact structure is still being finalized, but Catholic Charities of Broome County is positioned to be the lead managing entity, with the aim of building capacity in the other regions over time, Accardi said.

The Catholic Charities agencies behind Encompass are well-suited to provide these services, according to Accardi. “The changing landscape of how services will be funded and provided is transitioning to a managed care model. Some of our agencies were involved in doing this kind of work for adults and some of them weren’t, but we all have a lot of strengths in terms of the services we’re already providing to high-need children and their families across the state,” she said. “We feel we have a special role because not only do we provide kids services, but we have a wealth [of services] in the area of vulnerable adults as well…. [so] when kids age out of Children’s Health Homes we can transition them to adult services as well.”

And that all speaks to Catholic Charities’ guiding principles. “The mission of Catholic Charities is really to serve the poorest and those who are left out of services,” Accardi said. “Based on the preferential option for the poor, which is one of our Catholic social teachings, we want to continue to be able to to serve the most vulnerable populations.”

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