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Children with Special Healthcare Needs

Adolescents' Special Needs


Judy Womack, R.N., Director, Health Promotion and Disease Control, Tennessee Department of Health.

Patience White, M.D., Executive Director, Adolescent Employment Readiness Center, Children's National Medical Center.

This session discussed several innovative approaches for addressing the particular challenges faced by adolescents with special healthcare needs, including the delivery of services in cooperation with the schools and a program focused on important transition issues faced by children with special health care needs (CSHCN) moving from adolescence to adulthood.

Judy Womack, Director of Health Promotion and Disease Control at the Tennessee Department of Health, discussed Project TEACH, a program that the Department has developed in collaboration with the State's Department of Education to provide coordinated, comprehensive services for children with special health needs.

The purpose of this program is to collect data, coordinate services, provide continuity of care, and identify providers for children in the Tennessee schools who have chronic illnesses or special needs. The program is staffed by a cadre of skilled nurses who serve as liaisons with primary care providers, managed care organizations, and families to ensure that appropriate services are available and billing is handled accurately. Though all the data have not yet been collected, early findings indicate regional variations in the use of services, with cost savings reported in some school districts for this population.

Dr. Patience White of the Children's National Medical Center and the Executive Director of the Adolescent Employment Readiness Center (AERC) then described an innovative program designed to assist adolescents with chronic illnesses and disabilities with the transition from youth to adulthood.

This program, which serves children ages 12-19 with chronic illnesses and severe physical disabilities, brings together resources from businesses, the community, educational agencies, rehabilitation facilities, parents, teens, and the medical community to provide career development skills and educational and job opportunities for adolescents with chronic health conditions.

Over the last 15 years, Dr. White's program has successfully served 1,500 youths. Current efforts under way include:

  • Providing transitional services to adolescents at younger ages.
  • Providing comprehensive access to regional training opportunities.
  • Collecting comprehensive outcome data on measures of career development/maturity and the children's relationship to participation in the work force.

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