Community Impact

Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan Foundation grants are empowering Michigan residents to make a difference in health care. See how they've made their mark by reading their success stories.

Grant helps Child & Family Services expand behavioral health access for kids
Great Moms Program helps moms battling opioid addiction during pregnancy
WMU mapping project helps service organizations pinpoint need

Grant helps Child & Family Services expand behavioral health access for kids

When the little girl first came to Child & Family Services of Northwestern Michigan, it was clear she needed help. Her mother's parental rights had been terminated and her custodial grandmother described a child who couldn't regulate herself emotionally at home, at school or in any social situation. "She just couldn't make friends, couldn't engage in a positive way with her peers or her teachers," said Paula Smith, director of behavioral health, CFS.

She underwent a comprehensive trauma assessment with many health professionals who dig for previous or ongoing traumatic events. They're goal was to learn what happened to this child and what do they need to be well.

With buy-in from the adults in her life, who received recommendations from the findings, the 8-year-old made amazing progress. Her grandmother remarked that she had 'a new child in my home,' Smith recounted.

A $25,000 grant from the Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan Foundation will help CFS provide increased access to affordable trauma-informed behavioral health services in rural northern Michigan. The nonprofit serves more than 20 counties through foster care and adoption and counseling services, a youth shelter and other wraparound programs.

The funding will help children avoid disruptions to services when they go through a family transition due to changes in foster care or adoption status. Smith points to a recent example of a sibling group able to continue horse-assisted therapy throughout parental termination, foster care and subsequent adoption.

"The (grant funding) could be used for cases like that to help cover therapeutic intervention that benefits the children at a time when they're going through this challenging transition," she said. "Having those funds available to bridge the deficit allows for circumstances like that when we're either uninsured or underinsured."

In addition to helping children through their trauma, CFS is committed to family reunification for foster children when possible. This includes counseling services to parents in need. Making sure children and teens have access to behavioral health services is important to their long-term well-being. Left unresolved, Smith said, children with trauma tend to have difficulties in the classroom, are more likely to be truant and break the law. They're also at a higher risk of self-harm and suicide.

Great Moms Program helps moms battling opioid addiction during pregnancy

The Grand Rapids Encompassing Addiction Treatment with Maternal Obstetric Management program, or GREAT MOMs, with grant funding from the Blue Cross Foundation, is offering hope to expectant mothers recovering from or actively battling a substance use disorder. Spectrum Health in Grand Rapids, Michigan, runs the program that embeds addiction treatment in a prenatal care clinic that streamlines their patients' individual needs to promote better outcomes for moms and their babies.

Cara Poland, M.D., M.Ed., spokesperson for GREAT MOMS, is one of the first 1,200 American Board of Medical Specialties board-certified addiction medicine specialists. She's also the president of the Michigan chapter of the American Society of Addiction Medicine.

Through GREAT MOMs, Poland said, women simply schedule a block of appointments during a single day with an addiction specialist, certified nurse midwife and others involved in their care. It saves them from having to make up to four different appointments in four different locations during a given week.

Women are treated with buprenorphine to help reduce or quit use of heroin or other opioids. Poland said medication to treat addiction during pregnancy is preferable and produces better outcomes than quitting "cold turkey." Without treatment, opioid use disorder during pregnancy can cause low birth weight, stillbirth, placental abruption and prematurity in infants.

"If somebody is actively using opioids, their body is often going in and out of withdrawal, and withdrawal is a physical stress on the body and that results in stress on the baby," Poland said. Poland said women who enter treatment during pregnancy have higher rates of compliance with prenatal care, and their babies need fewer medical interventions after birth. On average, six-week postpartum checkups are adhered to by only about 40 percent of women. The rate of compliance for GREAT MOMS is 95 percent.

Long-term, babies born to moms taking medication to treat an opioid use disorder do well, Poland said, typically without lasting complications.

WMU mapping project helps service organizations pinpoint need

For kids who rely on free and reduced lunch programs at school, summer vacation is sometimes synonymous with hunger. A lack of food is unhealthy for growing bodies. "If it's not maintained throughout childhood, even if they don't feel the immediate effects of it, it can affect the child's health as they age," said Phyllis Hepp, policy and planning director, Kalamazoo Loaves & Fishes.

In Michigan, the participation rate for summer food programs that target underserved children averages about 12 to 15 percent. In Kalamazoo County, it's 21 percent, which Hepp credits to a dedicated anti-hunger coalition in the community and their use of an innovative data mapping program that allowed the group to visualize where the need is and take appropriate action to up the number of kids getting summer meals.

Helping summer food programs increase effectiveness is just one of many wins that have been realized since Western Michigan University instituted the Health Data Research, Analysis and Mapping Center, or HDReAM, in 2014.

By mapping things like education and economics, transportation, maternal and child health, infectious disease hotspots, housing, services, medical information and population census data, community groups can pinpoint geographic areas where needs aren't being met.

Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan Foundation and the Battle Creek Community Foundation provided the initial funding for HDReAM, a collaboration between WMU, the Calhoun County Health Department and the Kalamazoo County Health and Community Services Department, along with other organizations.

The program is prompting discussion about how data can be used to improve health services and outcomes, explains Kathleen Baker, director of the HDReAM Center at WMU. Her team is working to update the data mapping technology and website. They're also helping other communities institute their own data mapping systems.

The project is instrumental in teaching a new generation of students about the role technology can play in shaping public health initiatives, as well as providing them insights into their community. Researchers have worked with other local organizations to identify and address gaps in health services related to sexually transmitted infections, maternal health care for at-risk moms and other complex issues.

To read more stories about how our latest grant recipients are making strides in health care research, see our 2018 Annual Report (PDF).


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