Coordinated Care Under One Roof

Jack was just six years old when he suddenly started losing weight. Then came a weekend when he felt weak, nauseous and extremely thirsty.

His mother, Kim Kees, drove him to the emergency room at the nearest children’s hospital in Jacksonville, Fla., where he was diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes. He stayed in the hospital for the next five days.

So much of that week was traumatic, Kim recalls. Not least was having to manage the crisis by herself, as her husband was then away, on active duty with the National Guard. But as Kim soon discovered, she wasn’t alone. Nemours Children’s had her family’s back — and still does.

“On the second day in the hospital, we were visited by a psychologist, asking if Jack had any questions or mixed feelings about his diagnosis,” Kim says.

From then on, a coordinated team of specialists attended to Jack’s emotional needs as well as his physical health.

Help When It Was Needed

“It’s a life-altering diagnosis,” says Kim. “Jack had to understand why mom and dad needed to poke his finger and give him a shot. They helped him a lot, and they helped me too. Whenever I had questions about how to help him, I could always ask his psychologist.”

In the eight years since Jack’s emergency, he has had regular appointments with the psychologist, who helps him manage both his feelings about his diabetes and behavioral problems related to a previous diagnosis for attention deficit/hyperactivity disorder.

The psychologist’s office is in the same building as Jack’s endocrinologist and ophthalmologist, and the three specialists share notes.

“It’s so nice not to have to go to five or six different places and tell the story over and over,” says Kim. “They all see his chart, so they celebrate any improvement — if he gains weight or grows half an inch or if he’s able to do well in school, behaviorwise.” 

We’ve been practicing this kind of integrated care for years, and now we’re taking it to the next level. Last year, we launched a one-year pilot program to expand and improve our coordinated care in our primary care offices Florida.

The program, supported with funding from TD Bank, embeds pediatric psychologists, clinical social workers and professional counselors in pediatric primary care offices. Children can get easier access to mental health care without the stigma of going to a mental-health specialist’s office. The program also includes early screening for depression and anxiety so that behavioral health problems can be identified and treated before they become more serious.

Looking Forward

Jack is now 16 and says he looks forward to going to his doctors’ appointments.

“They’ve really become part of his life,” says Kim. “And they’re his favorite people on Earth.”

In fact, Jack says he wants to go into medicine himself one day.

“He’d like to become a pediatric endocrinologist,” says Kim. “He wants to help other kids in the same situation that he is in.”