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Report from Children’s Home of Pittsburgh identifies key pediatric service needs

Sick kids are crowding emergency rooms in parts of the country.
Christophe Ena
Sick kids are crowding emergency rooms in parts of the country.

The Children’s Home of Pittsburgh & Lemieux Family Center released its June, 2024 community health needs assessment — a federally required study that aims to identify how medical resources and services should be directed.

The assessment shared community survey data and steering committee and community stakeholder interview responses. Analysis indicates that children and families with special needs and complex medical issues in the region really need educational support, along with access to pediatric therapy services like physical, speech, and developmental therapy.

Lisa Houlihan, chief nursing officer at the Children’s Home, said the home’s priority is educating families so they can be directly involved in their child’s care. She said the needs assessment helps her organization’s faculty understand how to best meet this goal and accommodate families.

“The knowledge around kids with medical needs is growing, so we're just seeing a lot of kids go home with more complex needs than have in the past,” Houlihan said. “We want families to do at least 50% of care while they're here, and then when we get closer to discharge, we encourage them to do more, if not all the care.”

Houlihan said her organization’s facilities often use the same equipment they send families home with. This way families get hands-on experience with things like feeding tubes and ventilation systems before their child is discharged.

Dr. Lynne Williams, a member of the Pennsylvania Chapter of the American Academy of Pediatrics, said involving parents in their children's medical care provides gratification and peace of mind.

“I think what the Children's Home is really trying to do is help parents understand, at a much deeper level, the impact that they can have on their kids,” Williams said. “It really trickles down to better care for the kids and a better sense of the family feeling empowered, feeling like they can make a difference.”

Williams also emphasized that reducing the cost and increasing accessibility to pediatric care is crucial for families, even if most of a child's care happens at home.

“So it's not just ‘Do I have the insurance to cover the medical part?,’ but it's ‘Can I rearrange my house in order to accommodate a child?’ ‘Do I have a reliable car?’ ‘Can I pay for the gas?’ ‘Can I pay for bus tickets to keep making it to this appointment?’” Williams said.

Nonprofit, tax-exempt hospitals like the Children’s Home must complete a needs assessment every three years per the requirements of the Affordable Care Act. The children’s home will present a plan in early 2025 for directing resources to high-priority programs.

Lane Moore is an intern at 90.5 WESA. They are a senior at Ohio University studying journalism and sociology, and their reporting is published in Print Newspaper, Southeast Ohio Magazine, and