The School of Education is among UNC-Chapel Hill units taking part in a new $16 million partnership with Duke University and the N.C. Department of Health and Human Services to establish an innovative approach to providing health and wellness services to children in five N.C. counties.
The model, called North Carolina Integrated Care for Kids, was one of eight nationally to be awarded funding this week from the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services.
The initiative aims to integrate a variety of services that children receive from different agencies and providers, including those for physical and behavioral health, housing, food, early care and education, child welfare, mobile crisis response services and juvenile justice and safety.
“The NC Integrated Care for Kids model is a tremendous opportunity for us to transform how we support the well-being of children and their families by breaking down siloes and working together across the many systems, including health care, schools, child welfare and early child care settings,” said Charlene Wong, M.D., executive director of the new initiative and an adolescent medicine pediatrician at Duke.
“Our goal is to build relationships, link data and develop new connections between all the different sectors that are currently working to improve the welfare of children,” Wong said. “We believe we can demonstrate that this approach can better serve the children we all seek to help.”
Springer to lead core child services effort
Matthew Springer, the School of Education’s Robena and Walter E. Hussman, Jr. Distinguished Professor of Education Reform and a co-principal investigator of the project, will lead work under the project’s core child services areas. He will also serve on the NC Integrated Care for Kid Partnership Council, the governing body for the program.
Springer will also work to link data across North Carolina’s InCK project partners, an area in which he has specialized for more than a decade, leading the design and development of a statewide education research-practice partnership in Tennessee. Marisa Marraccini, assistant professor in the School of Education’s school psychology program, will work with Springer, lending her expertise on mental health and well-being of students and preventing health risk behaviors.
“Our child health care system has a difficult time identifying and addressing risk factors for children,” Springer said. “Schools are a uniquely positioned space for systematic supports for students and by connecting health and schooling the InCK project can play a pivotal role not only in promoting healthy behaviors but also in improving student learning experiences and outcomes.”
The initiative’s leaders hope improved integration of services will address some of the root causes of poor health, reduce avoidable out-of-home placements, prevent hospitalizations for children, and create innovative and sustainable pediatric alternative payment models under the state’s Medicaid program.
“Children’s health and wellbeing are shaped by so much more than visits to the doctor,” said Mandy K. Cohen, M.D., Secretary of North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services. “Do they have enough food to eat? Do they have safe housing? Do they have nurturing caregivers? This model builds on our commitment to caring for the whole person and will help us achieve the bold goals set in our state’s early childhood action plan.”
Serving children and families in central N.C.
The model will serve Medicaid- and CHIP-insured children from birth to age 21 in Alamance, Orange, Durham, Granville, and Vance counties, which includes an estimated 80,000 eligible children. The CMS funding allocation begins Jan. 1, 2020 and covers two years for planning and program infrastructure development, followed by five years of implementation beginning in 2022.
The NC Integrated Care for Kid Partnership Council will include representation from families, youth and Medicaid payers as well as service providers in health care as well as other core areas.
“As the lead organizations at Duke, UNC, and NC DHHS work in collaboration, we are excited to join with many other state and local entities to make this approach a success, and really improve the lives of children by better addressing all of the factors that impact their health,” said Mike Steiner, M.D., medical director of NC Integrated Care for Kids and pediatrician in chief of UNC Children’s.
The project described is supported by Funding Opportunity Number CMS 2B2-20-001 from the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services, Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services. The contents provided are solely the responsibility of the authors and do not necessarily represent the official views of HHS or any of its agencies.