Bridge Coalition's members help medically fragile children

As a pediatric nurse, I saw firsthand the state of medically fragile children in Georgia.

These children live unnecessarily in an institution, such as a hospital or adult nursing home. Yes, they have special medical needs, but they are medically stable and do not belong in an institution. They rarely have visitors, and frequently their family has abandoned them. It is a dreadful existence for these beautiful children, and the cost is astronomical. Since the children are stable, they do not qualify for insurance or Medicaid coverage while in the hospital. The hospital eats the cost for their care, up to $400 a day. As a result, the cost of hospitalization increases for others and the taxpayer feels the effect. It is a lose-lose situation.

Although the needs are great, organizations exist that can help.

The Bridge Coalition was created to address the plight of medically fragile children and their families. This coalition provides wraparound services and identifies community resources needed to provide care for medically fragile children, as well as the education, skills training, home renovation, and equipment acquisition for foster, kinship or adoptive families dedicated to caring for these children in their own homes.

Here is an overview of The Bridge Coalition and its members:

•AND (Assisting the Needs of the Disabled): Provides home assessment and renovation for the disabled. These services are granted at little or no cost to the families.

•Childkind: A private child placement agency that recruits and trains foster families for medically fragile children; provides ongoing training, supervision and support for these special families.

•Dream House for Medically Fragile Children: Provides education programs and skills training for families and caretakers of medically fragile children; provides workshops and conference opportunities to help them stay current with new medications and equipment; provides assistance with obtaining much needed equipment. Cathi Durham, Program Manager for Dream House, serves as The Bridge Coalition Coordinator.

•FOCUS (Families of Children Under Stress): Offers emotional, informational and physical support to families with disabled children through a variety of programs, which includes support groups, family activities, much needed rest called "respite," hospital visits, summer day camps and workshops for additional support and information.

•Fragile Kids Foundation: Provides assistance funding rehabilitation equipment, wheelchair lifts and other medical equipment not covered by insurance; provides a loan program for equipment needed on a temporary basis.

•Hope House: Offers respite care, overnight and day care; provides monthly FOCUS Share Groups and Grief Recovery Groups for families dealing with stress and loss.

•The Beech Foundation: Although this nonprofit does not work directly with medically fragile children, it offers a priceless service to those who do. The Beech Foundation provides economic and management assistance to organizations who deliver assistance to family and children with special needs.

By providing these much-needed wraparound services, The Bridge Coalition provides tremendous cost savings for the family, county, state and the taxpayer. The Bridge Program also assists case managers for these children by relieving them of some of their overwhelming work load. By making sure families are well prepared and children are not bounced around like a hot potato from one frustrated family to another, a lot of time and energy is conserved.

Lastly, but certainly not least, the children live in a loving home with a family who is well prepared to care for their special needs. This factor alone has been demonstrated to improve the health of a child. It is a win-win situation.

For more information, please contact us at 770-717-7410 or visit our Web site at www.dreamhouseforkids.org.

People Helping People is a weekly column written by the executive directors of nonprofit organizations in Gwinnett County. Today's article was written by Laura Moore of Dream House for Medically Fragile Children.

Need help or know someone who does? The Gwinnett Helpline directs callers to the appropriate nonprofit agency. Call 770-995-3339.