Grant propels children’s health care pilot

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Courtesy Children's Healing Center

Children’s Healing Center (CHC) teamed up with Priority Health after receiving a state grant to expand play therapy and support programs for immunocompromised children.

The state of Michigan issued a $900,000 grant from its 2021-22 budget to create a pilot study that will allow CHC to test a reimbursement model for expanded services with Priority Health.

Funding for the initiative came from the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services Children’s Special Health Care Division.

While services such as care management and group therapy already are reimbursable under Medicaid, CHC provides social and educational support services, play therapy and caregiver-focused offerings that were not eligible for reimbursement. The 12-month pilot, which began in October 2021, will allow CHC to provide these services for 100 children and families.

Priority Health has helped to identify and enroll 100 qualifying beneficiaries and will be responsible for data collection and metric identification throughout the study.

“The new pilot will make a huge difference to families in our community who have kids with complex medical conditions,” said Amanda Barbour, CEO, CHC. “Clinical studies consistently reinforce the healing power of play, yet access to play is not always easy for our families.”

CHC’s 7,200-square-foot facility is designed to provide as close to a germ-free environment as possible and aims to remove barriers of isolation for families and caregivers on similar medical journeys, providing opportunities for play, programming, education and socialization.

Barbour said by providing clean, hospital-grade facilities, the center makes play safe and fun, which reduces inpatient hospital stays and other improved outcomes.

“We thank the state of Michigan for underscoring the value we bring to the community through this grant. We look forward to partnering with Priority Health to demonstrate what we have known since day one: Play and connections are critical components of the health care puzzle and essential for true healing.”

Priority Health and CHC in September will submit a report detailing program effectiveness in fulfilling the needs of the patients served during the pilot. The report will focus on utilization trends and health outcomes associated with isolation and loneliness, mental health concerns, emergency department visits and hospitalizations.

Pending pilot findings, the state will consider authorizing future funds that would provide Medicaid recipients with similar services offered under this program.

“Priority Health is pleased to see the state of Michigan acknowledging the importance of this type of value-based care through its generous grant,” said Praveen Thadani, president, Priority Health. “We understand data is a key component for developing future successful programs, and we look forward to carefully tracking and analyzing the cost savings families experience throughout the duration of this pilot.”

Thadani said Priority Health is thrilled to work alongside CHC to help provide emotional and social care to vulnerable populations in West Michigan.

“Our goal is to help individuals live healthier lives, and that is why we work closely with our provider partners to implement value-based arrangements that result in better patient outcomes and lower overall cost of care. This pilot program is a launchpad for future innovations that rethink the way in which care is delivered,” Thadani said.

CHC partnered with Calvin University Center for Social Research in 2017 to quantify the positive effects of play and connection. Reports showed participants made new friends and experienced strong feelings of connection, with little to no feelings of isolation, while at the center. Findings caught the attention of Priority Health leadership in 2018, leading to a partnership between the two organizations.

According to CHC studies, members feel less stress and less perceived pain, with 85% of parents saying the center has improved the overall quality of life for their family.

More information about CHC programs is at childrenshealing.org.

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