CAREing in Court Project Connects Families to Local Resources

May 10, 2011

Sometimes the help a family needs comes from the most unlikely of places. The Children’s Center, which cares for 3,000 to 3,500 local children annually while their family members attend court hearings at the Monroe County Hall of Justice, has launched a new initiative to make finding help easier by connecting families with resources they could greatly benefit from.

Abigail Kroening, M.D., a third-year pediatric resident at Golisano Children’s Hospital at the University of Rochester Medical Center (URMC), has been at the helms of the Children’s Center project to make connections between families and services they need. Working in close collaboration with staff at the Children’s Center, which is overseen by URMC’s Department of Psychiatry and funded by the Office of Court Administration, and the Health-e-Access program at Golisano Children’s Hospital, Kroening has extended and enhanced the Children’s Center’s program to better serve local families.

“I knew that I wanted to work with the Children’s Center and the family court from the moment I walked into the center for a site visit,” said Kroening. “The way I saw the Children’s Center offering compassionate care to families was so unexpected and uplifting to see. It’s really shown the community that the court house cares about the future of families facing difficult situations.”

The menu offers easily identifiable images, like food, which represent 13 different services available to families. Parents can check the boxes of any services they are interested in, which include assistance programs like a health and nutrition program for women, infants and children (WIC); the Home Energy Assistant Program (HEAP); asthma care services and dental services.

Thanks to a one-year grant from the Community Pediatrics Advisory Council, Kroening hired a part-time nurse at the Children’s Center, to help connect families with services and to conduct pediatric telemedicine visits with health care providers. The web-based telemedicine visits are done in collaboration with the Health-e-Access program, run by Ken McConnochie, M.D., professor of Pediatrics at Golisano Children’s Hospital, and Nancy Wood, senior health project coordinator at Golisano Children’s Hospital. The telemedicine visits involve using special equipment to share images and audio recordings with a health care provider remotely during a child’s examination.

Kroening is hopeful that the telemedicine component will help prevent families who have already taken time off work to go to court from having to take off additional time to see the child’s primacy care physician. Another hope is that the on-site visits will reduce unnecessary and costly visits to the emergency department.

“The goal is not to make the court house a health clinic, per se, but really to bridge these children to their pediatrician or health home,” Kroening said.

Kroening’s project was made possible by Pediatric Links with the Community (PLC) program at Golisano Children’s Hospital, which was helped residents make a direct and positive impact in the Rochester-area community for the past 15 years. Kroening worked with the Children’s Center on PLC’s CARE (Child Advocacy Resident Education) Track, available to second- and third-year pediatric residents at URMC.

To learn more about how pediatric residents are engaging with the community through PLC’s CARE Track, a program available to second- and third-year residents and funded by a grant from the Dyson Foundation, visit http://www.urmc.rochester.edu/pediatrics/training/plc/care-track.cfm. To see an interview with Kroening about the project, visit http://bit.ly/CAREinginCourt.

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