November 14, 2012- The November meeting of the Medical Home Work Group for Children with Special Needs in Western Massachusetts provided us with an opportunity to discuss two vital local resources for children with special healthcare needs. Presentations by therapists from Weldon Rehabilitation of Mercy Medical Center and Greg Klein-Hertzel from Centrus Premier Home Care stimulated more lively discussion around the healthcare issues that children with special needs are facing.
First, several therapists from Weldon Rehabilitation, of Mercy Medical Center, and offered through the Sisters of Providence Health System, spoke about their agency, which offers many therapies and services to individuals coping with complex medical conditions. The therapists spoke about the initial processes for beginning care at Weldon, which consist of a one to two hour evaluation for speech therapies and a one hour evaluation for physical therapies. Weldon Rehabilitation works with children from birth through adolescence, and with patients struggling with many issues ranging from integration disorders to traumatic brain injuries.
Weldon Rehabilitation offers some important conveniences, such as allowing patients to maintain their own weekly time slots for visits, and coordinating therapies to reduce the amount of trips a family needs to make for therapy visits. The therapists explained that all insurances are accepted at Weldon Rehabilitation. A topic of interest to our group, however, revolved around the issue that in order to be covered by insurance, families need to associate the services they are receiving with a medical diagnosis, and not a developmental delay.
The therapists also described some of the fun and unusual therapeutic activities they offer patients, such as social communication groups and animal-assisted therapies. Weldon Rehabilitation makes annual trips to the zoo at Forest Park in Springfield and offers hip therapy activities with horses. These compelling rehabilitation services are clearly very valuable to young people coping with complex healthcare needs in the Springfield area!
Our second presenter, Greg Klein-Hertzel from Centrus Premier Home Care, spoke about the services that this home care company offers individuals of all ages with special health care needs. Centrus offers private duty nursing, along with assistance in activities of daily living. Greg explained that the process begins with a free home care assessment of needs, and that should Centrus be unable to provide the appropriate services, they will refer individuals to other organizations who can help. Centrus works with all insurers as well.
A conversation was spurred within our group around the issue of services that home health aides are unable to provide, such as administering medications to patients. Home health aides cannot provide medication to clients, but they can contact their managers or 24/7 nursing support by telephone. Unfortunately, this issue causes a predicament for some families of children whose medical needs are not complex enough to require full-time nursing care, but sometimes need more services that home health aides can offer, such as children who suffer seizures.
Greg’s presentation inspired an important conversation about the benefits and barriers of home health care. Family members and providers who are interested in continuing this conversation are encouraged to attend our January Medical Home meeting, during which we hope to further this conversation!