ACHIEVA’s Disability Healthcare Initiative Honored for Improving Access to Health Care for Individuals with Disabilities 

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The Allegheny County Medical Society Foundation (ACMSF) will present ACHIEVA and its Disability Healthcare Initiative (DHI) with a 2014 Benjamin Rush Community Organization Award during its annual community awards and fundraising gala, Saturday, March 7, 2015 at Heinz Field – East Club Lounge.

Established in 1947, the Benjamin Rush Community Organization Award recognizes a company, institution, organization or agency that is successfully addressing a community health issue.

ACHIEVA is a not-for-profit organization and is Southwestern Pennsylvania’s largest provider of comprehensive services and supports for people with disabilities and their families.  ACHIEVA serves more than 14,600 individuals with disabilities and their families and is the only agency of its type in Southwestern PA that provides lifelong supports.  ACHIEVA provides a full spectrum of services for people of all ages and abilities and their families, from early intervention therapies for infants to in-home support for medically fragile senior citizens.

ACHIEVA’s Disability Healthcare Initiative (DHI) is providing statewide leadership on improving access to health care for disabilities through education, public policy and advocacy.  The organization works to increase physical and programmatic access, medical workforce development and education.  ACHIEVA works with many stakeholders, including individuals with disabilities and their families, medical professionals, hospitals and health centers, government agencies, educators, insurance companies, foundations and disability advocates to develop viable solutions to increase access to physical health care and dental care for people with disabilities.

“The DHI recognizes that transition is not merely a matter of making lists of providers for families, but also acknowledges the training gaps and limited numbers of providers who are able to provide care to those with developmental disabilities,” says Miya R. Asato, MD, associate professor of pediatrics and psychiatry, Division of Child Neurology, Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh.  “This initiative is powered by dedication and its strong leadership sets a national care standard. Importantly, the DHI addresses a health care need in our community for an underserved population with many health problems.”

Since its creation in 2005, ACHIEVA’s DHI has increased access to dental care, improved women’s health care and is now focusing on a particular challenge – health care transitions for youth with disabilities and chronic medical issues.  This time period of moving from the childhood to adult systems is often a struggle for individuals and their families and all statistics indicate that there is a coming surge of youth with these needs. 

In addition to the hundreds of individuals who have been screened for cardiac, respiratory, weight management and dental issues, ACHIEVA’s DHI has compiled key reports to legislators.  These information pieces provide recommendations to direct policymakers to where our systems are in need of improvement.

DHI accomplishments at ACHIEVA thus far include:

Created a website [www.personfirsthealth.org] that features a broad range of information and resources for people with disabilities, medical professionals and families on access to health care;

Supported legislation that mandates private dental insurance payment for anesthesia for children under the age of 7 and people with disabilities.  This legislation passed the PA Legislature in 2012.

Distributed an information brochure and DVD that created awareness of the access to dental care issue and asked 8,300 Pennsylvania dentists to become part of the solution by treating more patients with disabilities;

Provide information about health care issues that impact people with disabilities to the Regional Health Literacy Coalition;

Chosen by the Arc of the U.S. to participate as one of five sites to implement HealthMeet, a national initiative focused on improving the health and wellness of people with disabilities.

The Allegheny County Medical Society represents physician members from all specialties and is dedicated to providing leadership and advocacy for patients and physicians. The organization has been serving Allegheny County since 1865.

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