April 17, 2020

COVID-19 Response Fund Partner Profile: Kids’ Health Connections

United Way for Southeastern Michigan and our partners work to ensure that our region’s most vulnerable families have the support they need to weather the short- and long-term impacts of the coronavirus outbreak. The COVID-19 Community Response Fund allows us to rapidly deploy funds to organizations that are working tirelessly to help individuals and families access food, shelter, health care and other critical resources.

As of May 14, more than $13 million had been awarded to nearly 500 organizations.

We’ll continue to share more stories of how together, we’re helping families in Wayne, Oakland and Macomb counties weather this crisis. Visit our blog to learn more about how we’re responding.

As a worldwide coronavirus pandemic continues, so do the important services provided by Kids’ Health Connections (KHC). 

KHC (formerly Wayne Children’s Healthcare Access Program, or WCHAP), provides asthma home education services and support for children’s doctor visits. They also offer FitKids360, a childhood obesity program, and they connect families with community resources. 

“The work we are doing right now is very similar in intent to what we normally do,” said Melissa Freel, director, quality and administration at Kids’ Health Connections. 

“However, the methodology is very different, and the intervention options are limited, causing us to have to be creative.” 

All employees have shifted to remote work. A grant from United Way for Southeastern Michigan’s COVID-19 Community Response Fund allowed the organization to purchase laptops and cover IT work to move necessary documents into the cloud.  

Without that grant, “we would not have had the funds to transition our staff to work remotely and would have had to put services on hold for families, which would have likely meant laying off some employees,” Melissa said.  

“We simply would not be able to have a true COVID-19 response.” 

Child participates in home health check in

Kids’ Health Connections employees have shifted to remote work, conducting check ins with families like this one via video.

Making an impact 

In the first week of going fully online, KHC reached 202 clients. Two new families were enrolled in the asthma education program that first week with an intake process taking place entirely via telemedicine.  

A big part of the organization’s work is building relationships between families and pediatricians and physicians. The relationships KHC staff have with their clients are also important. While checking in with families, staff found that most children were handling the situation well enough, but one in five parents were struggling to cope. 

“Many of these parents are health care workers, individuals with pre-existing conditions or have someone in their family who has COVID-19,” Melissa said. One parent lost her mother to the virus.  

A connection with KHC staff can help those parents connect with supportive services, including United Way’s 2-1-1 helpline. They’re able to connect the hungry with food deliveries, and they go above and beyond to make sure their families have what they need. One staff member, after learning that one of the families she sees regularly missed a food pickup window at a local church, delivered prepared and raw foods to their doorstep within a matter of hours. 

Screenshot of home health virtual visit

KHC workers are able to check in with children to make sure they’re staying healthy,

A tight-knit team 

“It is energizing and draining at the same time,” Melissa said of KHC’s efforts in the age of COVID-19. 

“We are working hard to make lemonade out of lemons. In the long run, we expect that the interventions we are now piloting may be helpful even once this crisis is over, particularly when working with families who might not normally be reached.” 

Through it all, a passion for their work shines through. 

“We at KHC have always been a tight-knit team,” Melissa said, with many employees working with the organization from its inception and participating in its growth. 

“True to our form, this crisis has been met by the staff with the perspective of ‘What can I do to help?’ They are all certainly worried for their own families and health, but it is their concern and support for the families that KHC serves that defines the core values of KHC: connection, support and belief that all are entitled to good health.”