Robert Wood Johnson Foundation Funds Work to Promote a Healthy Society
Washington – The National Health Law Program is excited to announce a two-year strategic effort to promote and bolster benefits guaranteed by Medicaid and other safety net laws intended to improve children’s health and the communities they live in. This effort is funded by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, which has worked for more than 40 years to improve health and health care.
The effort will focus on ways to more effectively implement Medicaid and other laws designed to improve children’s health. Medicaid’s Early and Periodic Screening, Diagnostic, and Treatment (EPSDT) benefits are specifically designed and intended for low-income children, and more than a quarter of the children in the U.S. qualify for it. The law entitles Medicaid-eligible children to comprehensive, periodic physical, developmental, and mental health assessments and to services to treat their conditions. EPSDT also includes outward facing components to improve health, such as early intervention services for very young children and their families, and case management services to assist them with gaining access to medical, social, educational, and other services. EPSDT programs, moreover, must coordinate with other state and federal public health, educational, food and nutrition, and related programs to help ensure child health.
But there are challenges to effective and far-reaching implementation of EPSDT, in part because knowledge of the law is woefully insufficient. Indeed, there are many states that fail to ensure EPSDT is being championed, meaning scores of children suffer every day and are robbed of great potential.
The work is aimed at ensuring the broad promise and potential of EPSDT and other public laws come to fruition, even in challenging times.
The project will be led by NHeLP’s Legal Director, Jane Perkins, and the Managing Attorney of its North Carolina Office, Sarah Somers. Perkins has led NHeLP’s legal team for more than 30 years and has served as counsel in more than 30 high profile lawsuits to protect and advance the health rights of low-income people. This fall the National Legal Aid & Defender Association (NLADA) honored her with its Kutak-Dodds Prize for trailblazing work on behalf of Medicaid beneficiaries and many others. Somers specializes in litigation to advance access to quality health care for low-income individuals and underserved communities and is co-author of NHeLP’s flagship publication, “The Advocate’s Guide to the Medicaid Program.”
This project will focus on specific states and will require significant on-the-ground work. Therefore, NHeLP will be awarding sub-grants of $90,000 per year to three states to support that work.
Somers said, “Properly understood and implemented, EPSDT can make significant and important changes in children’s lives, and the Foundation understands this. But we all know more work is needed to help state advocates effectively and robustly ensure the promise of Medicaid’s expansive health care benefits for children. The Foundation also understands that myriad public safety net laws working in conjunction with EPSDT can do so much more toward building a culture of health.”
Perkins said, “Medicaid’s EPSDT benefits and an array of other laws have great potential to improve children’s lives and their communities in a cost effective and cross-sectional way. We know that so much more can be done to improve child health and that this project is a bold start.”
NHeLP Executive Director Elizabeth G. Taylor expressed gratitude for the Foundation’s support of this initiative.
“We are deeply humbled and moved by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation’s support of this effort, one we are all confident will improve children’s lives and their communities,” Taylor said.
Founded in 1969 NHeLP advocates for the rights of low-income and underserved people to access quality health care.
For more than 40 years the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation has worked to improve health and health care. It is working with others to build a national Culture of Health, enabling everyone in America to live longer, healthier lives.