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DHS news release

Aug. 23, 2007

General contact: Bonnie Widerburg, 971-673-1282
Program contact: Katherine Bradley, DHS Public Health Division, 971-673-0232
Charles Gallia, DHS Division of Medical Assistance Programs, 503-945-6929
Alicia Philpot, Oregon Pediatric Society, 503-625-5758

Oregon partnership chosen for national consortium; focus is on improving children's preventive services

This summer Oregon became one of 18 states chosen for a national consortium that focuses on improving early childhood screening standards.

The need is clear: one of every four Oregon children under age 5 is at significant risk for developmental, behavioral or social delays, and almost 38 percent of Oregon parents are concerned about their child's development, according to a recent federal study. Detecting children with these issues early can give them the best chance for a successful, independent future and significantly reduce long-term costs.

However, early childhood screening in Oregon is fragmented and opportunities to help these children are missed, according to Katherine Bradley, Ph.D., administrator of family health programs in the Oregon Department of Human Services Public Health Division.

"There are no standard protocols for practitioners to use and there is a lack of referral resources for children in need of specialized interventions," said Bradley.

That's where the consortium is expected to make a difference. Sponsored by the National Academy for State Health Policy (NASHP) and The Commonwealth Fund, the consortium offers an opportunity for Oregon to look at how to begin addressing this, and puts a partnership in place to do it.

"To be selected," said Bradley, "Oregon had to have in place a public-private partnership dedicated to improving policy and clinical practice with the goal of identifying children's developmental and behavioral disorders as early as possible."

Oregon's partnership consists of the DHS Division of Medical Assistance Programs and Public Health Division, the Oregon Center for Children and Youth with Special Health Needs at Oregon Health & Science University, and the Oregon Pediatric Society.

Previous NASHP efforts show that Medicaid and other state agencies can play an important role in promoting policy and practice-level changes. Oregon's effort will be led by Charles Gallia, Ph.D., manager of research and evaluation in the DHS Division of Medical Assistance Programs, which administers Oregon's Medicaid program.

"Critical development occurs early in life," said Gallia. "We need to improve the likelihood that children of all incomes will be screened for developmental problems. Finding and addressing problems early means lives will be better and taxpayers will save because expensive treatment costs can be prevented."

Kevin Marks, M.D., a representative of the Oregon Pediatric Society, will provide leadership with clinicians.

"Pediatricians support the use of standardized screening tools and understand the benefits of early intervention for children with delays," said Marks. "Early intervention has been shown to improve developmental, academic and behavioral outcomes 18 years down the road. The consortium is sure to make a difference."

As a consortium participant, Oregon will learn from other states and receive technical assistance on how to integrate standardized developmental screening processes into preventive health care practices. Oregon's team will pilot and evaluate screening in several practice settings and build on recent and current screening efforts to help develop models that can be replicated across the state.

The partnership team wrote Oregon's application to the consortium. Their next step is to form a steering committee to oversee their activities and recommend policy and practice changes to promote standardized screening as a routine element of well-child care.