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Written by Elaine Gabovitch of the Bureau of Family Health and Nutrition

Emergency care plans (ECPs) are important tools that families of children with special health needs can use to prepare for their children’s safety and wellbeing during COVID-19 and other health related emergencies. Having a clear, practical plan in place can protect families if a parent or guardian becomes ill and must self-isolate or be hospitalized due to COVID-19.

NPHW alternate imageThe DPH Division for Children & Youth with Special Health Needs (DCYSHN) in the Bureau of Family Health and Nutrition works with families, providers, and others to support children and youth with special health needs ages birth to 22 and their families. This includes children and youth with chronic medical, physical, developmental, behavioral or emotional conditions. The Director of the DCYSHN reached out to and actively worked with the Office of the Child Advocate, MassHealth, and the Pappas Rehabilitation Center to explore alternative care options for families of medically complex children whose primary caregiver becomes ill and incapacitated due to COVID-19.

The Division for CYSHN developed the Emergency Care Planning for Children & Youth with Special Health Care Needs during COVID 19 and Beyond website to feature COVID-19 resources and other general emergency resources for families of children and youth with special health care needs. This link to COVID-19 related ECPs helps parents or guardians gather important information to share with their support systems. The ECPs come in a variety of forms for different types of emergencies, so they can explore what’s available to have a well-thought-out plan ready in a crisis. Parents or guardians are encouraged to write ECPs to provide information and instructions for substitute caregivers about the needs and strengths of their loved ones with special health needs so they can fill in as easily as possible.

The ECP website above also has a link to the Preparing for Caring during COVID-19 webinar, offered to families as a live event delivered by two community leaders who are experts in safety and person-centered planning — and are also parents of children with disabilities.

The “Stay Aware. Be Prepared.” campaign for Emergency Preparedness month included the DCYSHN Director as a member of the planning team with the Office of Preparedness and Emergency Management and the Office of Communications to promote COVID-19 prevention targeting special populations such as children with medical complexity. The Stay Aware. Be Prepared. website is targeted at the general public in Massachusetts with a rich amount of important emergency preparedness information and tools. It also includes information more directly targeted at families, children and people with access and functional needs.

Further strengthening and demonstrating the Bureau of Family Health and Nutrition’s commitment to build COVID-19 resilience was DCYSHN Director Elaine Gabovitch’s and Assistant Director Elizabeth Bostic’s COVID Ambassador presentation to 20 members of the Hospice and Palliative Care Federation of Massachusetts on March 18th of this year.

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