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Improving coverage for children with special health care needs

$2M grant for SSW and SPH part of national initiative

Parents of children with special health-care needs must piece together an elaborate puzzle of resources to get what they need. More than 12 percent of such children lack insurance coverage, meanwhile, and many more are underinsured. Making matters worse, say BU researchers, is the fact that many policymakers lack solid information about the best practices of financing health care for children with special needs.

The Maternal and Child Health Bureau of the federal Health Resources and Services Administration recently awarded the School of Public Health a four-year, $2 million grant to address the situation. With the grant, the school has formed the Catalyst Center to conduct research on how best to promote adequate financing for youth with special health-care needs.

“On behalf of the Catalyst Center team, we are very excited about the leadership opportunity this grant offers towards improving the lives of families and their children with special health-care needs,” says Margaret Comeau, the center’s project director and co–principal investigator of the grant.

The group is studying how health care for children with special needs is financed across the country and aims to improve financing in states that choose to collaborate with the Catalyst Center to that end.

The Catalyst Center team also includes co-principal investigator Carol Tobias, an SPH assistant professor of health and disabilities, who directs the school’s Health and Disability Working Group, as well as SPH research associate Deborah Allen and SSW assistant professor Sally Bachman. Their collaborators include Susan Epstein, director of New England Serve, an independent health research and planning organization that focuses on children with special health-care needs.

“The depth and breadth of expertise available through both the School of Public Health and School of Social Work contributed to the composition of our interdisciplinary team, which had significant impact on the successful funding of our proposal,” Comeau says.

The goals of the Catalyst Center are to expand health insurance coverage of children and youth with special health-care needs nationwide, close the financing gap faced by underinsured families across the country, develop and disseminate innovative financing strategies at the community, state and national level, and ensure that key stakeholder groups know about and can collaborate on financing.