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Healthy Kids: Access to care is critical to children’s health

Healthy Kids: Access to care is critical to children’s health.

Before Congress convened for its holiday break, lawmakers agreed to inject nearly $3 billion dollars into the Children's Health Insurance Program (CHIP) to keep it funded through March.

CHIP insures kids whose families make too much to qualify for Medicaid but not enough to afford private health insurance.

“When Congress reconvenes in 2018, our hope is that it will identify a long-term funding plan,” says Dr. Pilar Bradshaw with Eugene Pediatric Associates.

The CHIP program provides critical health insurance coverage to about 120,000 children and 1,700 pregnant women in Oregon. Health care providers say making sure that all kids, regardless of income, have access to preventative health care prevents costly problems down the road.

“We think that 80-90 percent of medical unwellness is rooted in social or behavioral health unwellness,” says Dr. Bradshaw. “That’s why we’ve fully integrated behavioral health, social work and medical care, so we’re taking care of the whole child and the whole family, actually in a way that we’ve never done before.”

In 2014, Eugene Pediatric Associates, a medical home to about 9,000 children, embedded Thrive Behavioral Health, allowing medical providers and behavioral health specialists to work side-byside.

“I can treat a kid for strep throat, but if I don’t fix the fact that the kid is living in a car and they and their parents are all terribly depressed, I’m just sort of rearranging the furniture on the Titanic,” she says.

For Samantha Liesse, whose 6-year-old twin daughters have autism, this integrated care model allows them to access the full spectrum of care they need under one roof.

“They’re helping them to learn how to socialize with their peers and work through their anxieties,” Samantha says. “Their therapist and their doctor talk to each other and everyone knows what’s going on.”

A model for quality care

Oregon governor Kate Brown recently toured the clinic, publically recognizing Eugene Pediatrics and Thrive Behavioral Health as the blue print for children’s health care, saying it’s critical that all children have access to care, regardless of family income.

“For every $1 that we put into preventative services for kids, such as well-baby checks, teenage checkups, immunizations, developmental screenings, we save $13 that we would have spent if you don’t do all that preventative work – on fixing kids who are sick and broken and failing in school,” says Dr. Bradshaw.

Samantha says this integrated model not only gives her daughters the care they need, it offers her added support as a parent.

“I feel super blessed that we came here seven years ago, as these issues unfolded with our girls; we have those resources available to help take care of them.”

Making a difference

For the fourth year in a row, Eugene Pediatrics is rated the highest quality pediatric clinic in the region by the Oregon Health Authority, far exceeding every measure of quality recognized by the state for pediatric care. Last year, for example, the clinic screened 95 percent of its adolescent patients for depression and provided follow up care to those who needed it, far surpassing the state's screening goal of 25-percent.

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