Sherrill and Upton Introduce Bipartisan Bill to Support Children with Special Healthcare Needs

May 17, 2019
Press Release
Family-to-Family Reauthorization Act Extends Funding for Health Information Centers Nationwide

Washington, DC – Today, Representative Mikie Sherrill (NJ-11) introduced bipartisan legislation with Representative Fred Upton (R-MI) to reauthorize the Family-to-Family Health Information Centers (F2F HICs) program. These family-staffed centers provide guidance and support to families of children with special healthcare needs. F2F HICs help families access information about the healthcare resources, treatments, and services available for their children. The Family-to-Family Reauthorization Act of 2019 (H.R. 2822) will extend funding for F2F HICs for an additional five years, to 2024.

The F2F HIC in New Jersey has helped families across New Jersey, including Essex, Morris, Passaic, and Sussex Counties, obtain health resources and access care. F2Fs HICs are staffed by highly-skilled, knowledgeable family members who have first-hand experience and understanding of the challenges faced by families of children with complex health needs. These uniquely qualified staff provide critical support to families caring for children with special health needs, particularly families from diverse communities. F2F HICs provide families with the information, skills, and confidence they need to support and advocate for their children. Last year F2F HICs, which are in every state and the District of Columbia, have provided information to close to one million families.

“Navigating the healthcare system for children with special health needs can be daunting for families,” said Representative Sherrill. “Family-to-Family Health Information Centers help families find high-quality, low-cost care that meets their child’s specific health needs. We must continue funding this important program to support and empower families and ensure that their children in New Jersey and across the country can access the best care available. I’m proud to partner with Representative Upton to extend this critical service.”

“Family-to-Family Health Information Centers in Michigan and across the country are able to reach and assist nearly one million families with special health care needs find appropriate care, get referrals to providers, navigate the complex health care system, and more. F2Fs play such an important role in our communities,” Representative Upton said. “And the bipartisan legislation we introduced today would allow F2Fs to continue their extraordinary service to families around the nation.”

“Family to Family Health Information Centers provide families of children with special healthcare needs (CYSHCN) help and support that improves their lives and the lives of their children,” said Diana Autin, Executive Co-Director of the SPAN Parent Advocacy Network, New Jersey’s F2F HIC. “Without the support of the F2Fs, their ability to be effective partners in their children's healthcare would be greatly diminished. F2Fs help families find their voice and the confidence to use that voice at critical times in their children’s lives. The F2F staff are also parents, so they understand what parents are going through and the information and skills they need to support and advocate for their children. Because of that assistance, CYSHCN around the country have greater access to early and continuous screening to identify their needs, a medical home to coordinate needed care, community-based services that are easier to use, adequate healthcare financing, and stronger family-professional partnerships, leading to transition to improved adult life outcomes including a more meaningful and inclusive life. The F2F funding serves as a foundation for these supports in every state and territory.”

“I met Patricia Paraskevacos of SPAN, New Jersey’s Family to Family Health Information Center, about 4 years ago,” wrote Migdalia Rosa, a parent from Passaic County. “My son was recently diagnosed with Autism at that time. I was very overwhelmed and confused about what I had to do next. She helped me navigate how to go about requesting services for my son. She has helped me understand what services and resources are available to assist me and my family. She helped me step by step with reviewing my son’s IEP and assisted with getting Perform Care. Because of her guidance, my son is receiving OT and Speech therapy in school and in the appropriate special education classroom. I was also able to get approved for Perform Care, which allows me to have my son in a respite program. She has gone above and beyond to helped me in any way she could. She has encouraged and reassured me when I doubted myself as a mother. I cannot think of anyone in this journey who has been as helpful as she has been to me. It has been hard to get the help and support I need on this journey. If I did not have the SPAN program, I would have not had the knowledge and the bravery to correctly advocate for my child’s right for therapy and assistance.  If this program is cut, it will have a tremendous impact on people like me that have trouble getting help and resources.”