Arizona becomes 3rd state to provide in-home care for sick children
For most families with medically fragile children, parents are often forced to stop working to provide necessary medical care for loved ones. All too often, that includes forgoing income in exchange for their child’s health and safety. But that all changed for Arizona residents in April 2022, thanks to the newly-passed Family Licensed Health Aide (FLHA) Program.
We spoke to Fred Johnson, President and CEO of Team Select Home Care, as well as Brandilyn Coon, a mom whose son has Cerebral Palsy and epilepsy, to find out what this means for Arizonans. Johnson has worked diligently alongside program supporters, state representatives, community providers and Arizona families for years to finally make the FLHA Program a reality in Arizona.
Under the Family Licensed Health Aide Program, parents and legal guardians of medically fragile children can receive free training to become a Licensed Health Aide (LHA) and be hired by a home health agency. Parents and legal guardians can then become paid caregivers for their child’s lower acuity medical tasks. This began on April 1, 2022.
Arizona House Bill 2521, which was introduced in 2019, was passed at the end of last year, making the FLHA Program a possibility for Arizonans. Arizona is the third state to approve such a program, joining Colorado and New Hampshire where similar programs are already in place. The bill has subsequently been approved by the Arizona Board of Nursing and Arizona Medicaid.
Team Select Home Care, who also employs parents for the Colorado and New Hampshire programs, was instrumental in getting the program passed. “We are very proud of the role we played in getting this transformative legislation approved and are optimistic it’s just the tip of the iceberg to encourage other states across the U.S. to implement similar programs,” stated Johnson.
“The Family Licensed Health Aide Program in Arizona will not only help children with disabilities receive the constant and consistent care they need, it will also help avoid costly, long-term hospital stays while filling a shortfall of private duty nurses during the ongoing nursing crisis,” Johnson added. “It keeps families together… a parent never misses a shift, never calls in sick.”
The FLHA Program allows caregivers the ability to provide skilled, compassionate care for loved ones while operating under the supervision and guidance of a registered nurse case manager. The parent/family member is required to attend and pass the State and Board of Nursing mandated schooling to become a clinically-trained and fully-certified nursing aide. “I learned some new skills I wasn’t expecting to,” said Coon. The program typically takes less than a week to complete. The parent/family member would then have the opportunity to become hired by an agency like Team Select Home Care to provide physician-ordered skilled care to their child or loved one. All facets of employment will adhere to state regulations, Board of Nursing rules, labor laws, accreditation standards, and agency policies and procedures.
Mom Brandilyn Coon says this has been a powerful change for their family. Coon has been extremely involved in the community and serves as an advocate for her child and other families like theirs. Her son, Tyson, has Cerebral Palsy and Epilepsy and is currently on a gtube, VNS, PRN oxygen and cough assist.
“This program is going to serve our family in an amazing way,” said Coon.
Other parents feel the same. “My family is very excited about the Family Licensed Health Aide Program and the benefits it will bring to our daughter, Tori, as well as our whole family,” said Laura Gjacs of Surprise. “It allows me the opportunity to be employed with a good, stable job, but also care for my child, which is my top priority. I feel very fortunate that this program is available to my family. It addresses the stressful situations a family may face with inconsistent care and multiple providers for their child, as well as the financial impact of a parent not working.”
Gjacs’ daughter requires complete care including feedings and medications through her enteral G-tube. She also requires a BiPap machine, oxygen, inhaled medication, and a CPT vest to sustain adequate respiratory function.
The FLHA Program provides a plethora of benefits including:
- Improved access to quality care for the child.
- Opportunities for the family member to earn a living providing skilled care for their loved one.
- Helps alleviate the nursing shortage through adding an influx of LHAs to the workforce that will free up RNs and LPNs to care for higher acuity patients.
- Provides significant cost savings for Medicaid and taxpayers in two main ways:
- 30-50% savings for every hour of nursing care replaced with LHA care.
- Significant reductions in unplanned hospitalizations of medically fragile children, which can cost an average of $4,264 per day.
For more information about the Family Licensed Health Aide Program and Team Select Home Care visit www.tshc.com.