Louisiana’s CommunityCARE program has been held up as a nationwide example by a national Medicaid education and assistance group for promoting early identification of developmental delays in young children and working with primary care providers to make timely referrals for the appropriate treatments early enough to prevent further complications.

The Center for Health Care Strategies, a national group that works to improve the health of and health care services delivered to Medicaid and Children’s Health Insurance Program recipients nationwide, praised Louisiana’s CommunityCARE program in an article published in late July. The program, which links more than 720,000 Medicaid recipients to a primary care provider, was praised specifically for efforts the CommunityCARE Quality Unit made while participating in a nationwide workgroup aimed at improving routine, well-child care visits.

The CommunityCARE Quality Unit staff promoted the use of standardized assessment tools for young children. These tools help parents and primary care physicians better determine if children are developing at age-appropriate rates.

For example, during their required visits with their child’s primary care doctor, parents are asked to answer questionnaires that guide them in what to look for as their children grow. Parents are asked whether their children talk, how many words they can say, whether their ability to walk, crawl or pull themselves up happens without trouble and if their child’s abilities seem equal to that of other children in that child’s age group.

The Center for Health Care Strategies noted in the article that Louisiana CommunityCARE Quality Unit staff worked with a targeted group of physicians to establish the assessment materials used in the screening process. The staff identified barriers to developmental delay identification and the ensuing referral processes.

The Center for Health Care Strategies noted in the article that while nationwide there is a problem in referring at-risk children to the necessary early intervention services in a timely manner, the screening processes used in Louisiana CommunityCARE have resulted in more children with developmental delays being identified early and referred to the appropriate specialists, such as speech therapists or psychologists. This has resulted in many of these children avoiding serious future complications, the article observed.

“When we began our CommunityCARE program, our goal was to increase access to preventive care,” said Department of Health Secretary Dr. Fred Cerise. “Today, as a component of our health care reform efforts, we are working with CommunityCARE providers to ensure patients not only have access but are also getting the necessary services and interventions at the appropriate times.”

This is the second time in recent months the CommunityCARE program has earned national recognition. In February, the federal Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services termed the program a “model of excellence,” emphasizing quality of primary care for Medicaid recipients following the program’s implementation.

A complete copy of the Centers for Health Care Strategies article can be viewed at: