HHS Announces $3.9 Million to Support Families of Children With Special Health Care Needs

By Susan Jones | October 27, 2010 | 10:58 AM EDT

(CNSNews.com) - The Democrats' new health care law authorizes millions of dollars in funding for nonprofit groups that cater to families of children with special health care needs.

On Tuesday, Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius announced $3.9 million in taxpayer funding to continue support for the Family-to-Family Health Information Centers. Funding for the centers was extended through 2012 by the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, HHS said.

“These centers take a unique approach to helping families make more informed health care choices for their children with special health care needs, leading to better treatment decisions and improved outcomes,” Sebelius said.

Created in 2005, the Family-to-Family Information Centers provide information, education, training, outreach, and peer support to families of children with special health care needs and the professionals who serve them. The centers are operated people who have special-needs children and therefore know how to navigate the public and private health care systems.

The Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA), part of the Health and Human Services Department, oversees the program, which HRSA Administrator Mary Wakefield called a "model for effective collaboration between families and health care professionals."

The funding announced on Tuesday will continue support for Family-to-Family Health Information Centers located in 40 states and the District of Columbia. Centers in the remaining ten states (Alaska, Alabama, Arkansas, Iowa, Idaho, Kentucky, Ohio, South Carolina, West Virginia and Wyoming) received taxpayer funding during fiscal year 2009, and are now in the second year of the three-year funding cycle.

According to the organization’s Web site, typical questions asked of the Family-to-Family staff include:

-- Where can I get information to help me choose a health plan that’s good for my child with special health care needs as well as the rest of my family?
-- What are the eligibility requirements for Medicaid?  How do I apply?
-- What is Title V and what programs do they have for children?
-- Where can I get assistance to understand which services my present health plan does and does not cover?
-- Is there a way to keep my child’s longtime pediatrician when my job requires that we switch insurance plans?
-- Does my new HMO have a primary provider with expertise in children with complex health conditions?
-- Can you help me write a health care plan to help my son’s teachers and therapists care for him at school?
-- Who can help me find a way to pay for my child’s expensive medications?
-- Where can I find safe, affordable child care for my child, whose medical condition requires trained caretakers?
-- Is there a place in town that fixes wheelchairs? Loans equipment? Makes ramps for homes?