Michigan broadens efforts to improve outcomes for children in foster care

April 26, 2017

Expanded internet portal provides caseworkers with children’s physical and mental health data to better meet their needs

LANSING, Mich. – Michigan children in foster care will be better served under a first-of-its-kind data-sharing project that provides foster care caseworkers with a complete view of children’s medical history and care needs.

Gov. Rick Snyder and the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services today announced the expansion of the initiative, known as CareConnect360, to include youths in foster care. The data-sharing and analytics initiative is an example of the type of coordinated services that Snyder had in mind when he merged the former Departments of Community Health and Human Services in 2015 to better meet the unique needs of each person served by the department.

“Our goal is to provide coordinated care to the nearly 13,000 children in foster care by addressing their behavioral, developmental and physical health needs in a comprehensive way,” Snyder said. “We appreciate the collaborative spirit with which our state employees, technology partners, health plans, and community advocacy groups have embraced this important initiative.”

By providing foster care professionals with electronic access to children’s health information, MDHHS is helping to advance the governor’s vision of focusing on “people not programs” in the state’s efforts to help all Michiganders lead healthier lives.

CareConnect360 is a care management tool and internet portal. MDHHS initially launched the initiative to coordinate care and improve health outcomes for Michigan Medicaid beneficiaries. Consistent with the law, CareConnect360 makes integrated physical and behavioral health-related information – along with other human services information – available to the state’s health plans that serve Medicaid beneficiaries.  

MDHHS follows strict privacy and security policies that govern access to residents’ personal information and is committed to respecting and protecting their privacy. While foster care professionals previously could access medical records of the children they served, they now have more immediate access to physical and behavioral health care information.

Having a comprehensive understanding of a child’s medical history and doctor’s appointments is necessary to assure the child’s needs are met while in foster care. It allows caseworkers to understand, analyze and monitor the medical care received by foster children, including treatment for chronic conditions; emergency room visits; filled medications that health professionals prescribe; and whether the children have received well-child visits and dental treatment.

MDHHS staff can also use the tool to identify gaps in care, engage with parents about their child’s needs and inform new foster parents of a child’s medical background in an effort to improve the health and well-being of the children.

“Children in foster care can face numerous challenges that affect their health and well-being, including emotional, behavioral, developmental and educational difficulties; placement instability; and involvement in the juvenile justice system,” said MDHHS Director Nick Lyon. “With CareConnect360, our foster care professionals now have a window into the care and treatment of these children, which will enable them to make better and faster decisions and improve overall health outcomes for this vulnerable population.”

Under the expanded initiative, MDHHS foster care workers and supervisors now have access to the CareConnect360 physical and behavioral health information. The next release of the software will connect more than 1,800 foster care workers and supervisors from partner agencies to the tool, allowing them to review a child’s medical history before a home visit.

The initiative was developed as part of a collaborative effort among MDHHS, behavioral and physical health plans, and Optum, a health services and technology partner that supports the enterprise data warehouse that provides data-sharing and analytic capabilities across Michigan state government. Representatives from each organization meet regularly as part of a workgroup that determines the types of reports, data functionality and analyses that are most helpful in assessing the needs of Medicaid beneficiaries.

“For years, the State of Michigan has been a national leader in its use of data and analytics to improve its Medicaid program, and the CareConnect360 foster care initiative is the latest example of the state’s innovation,” said Steve Larsen, executive vice president of Optum Government Solutions. “We are grateful for the opportunity to work with the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services in this effort to improve the health of the state’s children.”