By Richard Asinof
PROVIDENCE – Two innovative children’s health care initiatives in Rhode Island, one focused on helping at-risk, pre-term infants transition from the hospital to their homes, a second seeking to achieve better outcomes for children with persistent asthma, were awarded multimillion innovation grants from the Center for Medicare and Medicaid Innovation, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services announced on May 9.
Women & Infants Hospital will receive more than $3.2 million to expand its Transition Home Plus program, serving about 2,400 mothers in Rhode Island who have pre-term babies. Under the direction of Dr. Betty Vohr, the program will train and deploy family care teams to support and monitor the at-risk infants, resulting in reduced emergency room visits and fewer hospital readmissions, achieving a projected savings in medical costs of about $3.7 million.
“This grant will bring important resources to Rhode Island to ensure that some of our most at-risk infants can get off to a more promising start,” said Elizabeth Burke Bryant, the executive director of Rhode Island Kids Count. “It complements the work of a home visitation program for at-risk young mothers and their infants.” Bryant said the award recognized both Rhode Island’s leadership in children’s health advocacy as well as Vohr’s “visionary” leadership in the field.
Health Resources in Action, a Boston-based nonprofit, will receive more than $4 million to establish a “New England asthma innovations collaborative,” serving more than 1,400 children ages 2-17 with persistent asthma in Rhode Island, Vermont, Connecticut and Massachusetts. In Rhode Island, a program of home visitations by community health workers to families with children who have persistent asthma conditions will be coordinated by Nancy Sutton of the R.I. Department of Health, working with Hasbro Children’s Hospital, St. Joseph’s Health Services, and Neighborhood Health Plan of Rhode Island.
“The traditional health care delivery system is not making much of an improvement in treatment of children’s asthma symptoms,” said Laurie Stillman, chief strategy office at Health Resources in Action. The newly funded program, she continued, “seeks to create a more meaningful intervention,” including better asthma care and self-management.
The two children’s health care initiatives were among 26 innovative projects that were awarded nationwide. Together, the projects are projected to reduce health spending by $254 million during the next three years.
“We can’t wait to support innovative projects that will save money and make our health care system stronger, said U.S. Secretary Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius. “It’s yet another way we are supporting local communities now in their efforts to provide better care and lower cost.”