For most families with medically fragile children, parents are often forced to stop working to provide needed medical care for their loved ones. Too often, this includes giving up income in exchange for the health and safety of their child. But that all changed for Arizona residents in April 2022, thanks to the recently passed Family Licensed Health Aide (FLHA) program.
We spoke to Fred Johnson, President and CEO of Team Select Home Care, and Brandilyn Coon, a mother whose son has cerebral palsy and epilepsy, to find out what this means for locals. from Arizona. Johnson has worked diligently alongside program supporters, state officials, 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 less urgent medical tasks. It started on April 1, 2022.
Arizona House Bill 2521, which was introduced in 2019, passed late last year, making the FLHA program an option 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 was later approved by the Arizona Board of Nursing and Arizona Medicaid.
Team Select Home Care, which also employs parents for the Colorado and New Hampshire programs, has been instrumental in the success of the program. “We are very proud of the role we played in getting this transformative legislation passed and are optimistic that this is just the tip of the iceberg in encouraging other states across the United States to implement similar programs.” , Johnson said.
“Arizona’s Family Licensed Health Assistance Program will not only help children with disabilities receive the constant and consistent care they need, it will also help avoid costly and long hospital stays while filling the lack of private 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 enables caregivers to provide competent and compassionate care to their 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 compulsory state and Board of Nursing education to become a clinically trained and fully certified health care aide. “I learned new skills that I didn’t expect,” Coon said. The program usually takes less than a week. The parent/family member would then have the option of being hired by an agency like Team Select Home Care to provide qualified doctor-ordered care to their child or loved one. All facets of employment will adhere to state regulations, Board of Nursing rules, labor laws, credentialing standards, and agency policies and procedures.
Mum Brandilyn Coon says it has been a powerful change for their family. Coon has been extremely involved in the community and champions the cause of her child and other families like theirs. Her son, Tyson, has cerebral palsy and epilepsy and is currently on gtube, VNS, PRN oxygen and cough aid.
“This program is going to serve our family in an incredible way,” Coon said.
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, and our entire family,” said Surprise’s Laura Gjacs. “It allows me to have a good stable job, but also to take care of my child, which is my top priority. I feel very lucky that this program is available for my family. It addresses the stressful situations that a family may be faced with inconsistent care and multiple providers for their child, as well as the financial impact of a non-working parent.
Gjacs’ daughter requires full care, including feedings and medication through her enteral G tube. She also needs a BiPap machine, oxygen, inhaled medications and a CPT vest to maintain proper respiratory function.
The FLHA program offers a plethora of benefits, including:
- Improved access to quality child care.
- Opportunities for the family member to earn a living by providing skilled care to their loved one.
- Helps alleviate the nursing shortage by adding an influx of LHAs to the workforce, which will free up RNs and LPNs to care for higher acuity patients.
- Provides significant savings to Medicaid and taxpayers in two primary ways:
- 30-50% savings for each nursing hour replaced by LHA care.
- Significant reductions in unplanned hospitalizations of medically fragile children, which can cost an average of $4,264 per day.
For more information on the Family Licensed Health Aide Program and Team Select Home Care, visit www.tshc.com.
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