Ward 8 Special-Needs Kids Gain Healthcare

Health Services for Children Moves into Congress Heights

Patricia Browne, CEO of the National Children’s Center (NCC), and Victor Fields, CEO of Health Services of Children with Special Needs Inc. (HSCSN), work with HSCSN member to cut ribbon and invite guests into a new outreach location. They are joined by members of HSCSN and stakeholders from NCC, the HSC Health Care System and the Department of Healthcare Finance (DHCF). Photo: Amy Smucker

When it comes to providing health services for children with special needs, the more room the better. Health Services for Children with Special Needs Inc. (HSCSN) is partnering with the National Children’s Center Inc. (NCC) to provide “a community hub centered on supporting children, youth and families, particularly those with special health needs.”

What will this merger mean for families on the east end of the city? It will mean reinforcement of critical services for children with complex medical conditions.

Beginning this month, HSCSN’s family and community development team will share space with the NCC Early Learning & Early Intervention Center (ELC) at 3400 Martin Luther King Jr. Ave. SE. In a press release, HSCSN stated that “these two mission-driven organizations continue to increase the quality, standards, and accessibility of care for people with complex medical needs throughout the District of Columbia.”

HSCSN is a service of HSC Health Care System, a nonprofit organization that connects DC residents with disabilities to high-quality healthcare and accessible resources through community support programs. Services include a pediatric specialty hospital for rehabilitation and transitional care and an outpatient center in Ward 5. Additionally, HSCSN offers long-term care and social support for children who are eligible for Supplemental Security Income (SSI).

NCC offers similar community-based services to residents who are intellectually and developmentally disabled. Programs include Day Habilitation Services, Individualized Day Services, Employment Readiness and Supported Employment Services. The programs help individuals with special needs become self-sufficient community members while developing their interpersonal skills.

Why would HSCSN want to move into the NCC space? Victor Fields, executive vice president of HSC’s managed care and CEO of HSCSN, explains: “The space we had been in was limited especially for community activities. The partnership with NCC affords us a chance to enter into a larger space. We’re going to lease their ground floor. We will move our care management team to the NCC space. That gets us closer to our membership base. We will ultimately relocate about 90 employees.”

The move from Northwest to Southeast means more opportunities for service to the 5,200 members of the managed-care organization. Fields says that HSCSN handles a myriad of needs, even wheelchair-accessible transportation to medical appointments. “Our members live with disabilities. They live with more than just one chronic condition. We handle their care coordination, whether they see a specialist or if they have acute needs. Those complex behavioral needs include behavioral health and physical health needs such as sickle cell or cerebral palsy.” HSCSN also connects families to community resources.

Health insurance cost is a critical discussion when designing a care plan for someone with special needs. One of the services to alleviate costs is the District Child and Adolescent Supplemental Security Income Program, also known as CASSIP. Supplemental Security Income (SSI) is a federally funded program that helps low-income families who care for children with disabilities. Although it is hard to qualify for this kind of assistance, the benefits can help with many financial challenges such as rent, specialized therapy, specific diet foods and more.

At the end of 2016, in DC, approximately 182,494 Medicaid enrollees were receiving services through a government-sanctioned managed-care organization. HSCSN is one of the managed-care organizations supported by the District government for individuals with special needs up to age 26.

Early intervention is the key to success in caring for children with special needs. The sooner potential members enroll, the sooner they will get access to services that will help their child bloom. “When the District certifies that a family is eligible [for SSI] they are admitted to the [CASSIP] program. We try to expedite the intake process. It may be 45-60 days before they’re actually enrolled. That’s why we try to educate the community on the CASSIP program so if potential members are in the community they can qualify sooner than later, especially with early childhood development,” Fields explains.

Moving to Ward 8 puts HSCSN one step closer to the community it supports. Members enroll in the program and stay for years to come. It’s an anchor and, for some, maybe a sanctuary. “What makes us unique as a health plan is our members are with us for years, and we help them thrive,” says Fields.


Candace Y.A. Montague is the health reporter for Capital Community News.