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COVID-driven stressors such as sudden and long-term school closures, lack of face-to-face contact with therapists, disruptions in home care, and lack of respite opportunities for caregivers are taxing children and youth with special health care needs (CYSHCN) and their families.  
While states implemented a variety of positive emergency regulations and policy flexibilities in response to the pandemic, few of these flexibilities focused on identifying and addressing the consequences of these new stressors and the resulting behavioral health challenges facing CYSHCN and their family caregivers.
In this webinar, a panel of experts discussed the regulatory flexibilities that had a positive impact on the behavioral health of CYSHCN, reflected on the unique stressors and behavioral health needs of this population, and highlighted policy recommendations to address those needs from the report COVID-19 Policy Flexibilities Affecting Children and Youth with Special Health Care Needs: What to Keep, Modify, or Discard?
We suggested that attendees read the report prior to the event.


Webinar Recording


Margaret (Meg) Comeau, MHA

Senior Project Director, Center for Innovation in Social Work & Health at Boston University

Meg Comeau is a nationally recognized expert on the impact of Medicaid and federal health care reform on children with special health care needs, medically complex conditions, and disabilities. She brings more than 15 years of health care delivery and financing experience to her role as principal investigator for the Catalyst Center, a Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA)-funded technical assistance center focused on improving insurance coverage and financing of care for children and youth with special health care needs, and as principal investigator for the HRSA-funded Collaborative Improvement and Innovation Network to Advance Care for Children with Medical Complexity (CMC CoIIN). Meg’s professional expertise is complimented by her experience as the parent of a young adult who was born with a medically complex genetic syndrome.

Debra Manners, MSW LCSW

President & CEO, Sycamores

Debra Manners has dedicated her career to improving the lives of children and families. Debra began her career working in a children’s shelter which shaped her commitment to understanding and treating both the immediate and lifelong effects of childhood trauma. She joined Sycamores, a mental health agency in California, in 1987 and has served as President & CEO since 2015. She serves on state and national boards focused on behavioral health and child well-being policy. Through her collaboration with other public, private, and governmental agencies, her impact extends far beyond those served by Sycamores. A licensed clinical social worker, Debra received a master’s degree in Social Work from the University of Washington.

Nicole Pratt

Senior Parent Professional Trainer, SPAN Parent Advocacy Network

Nicole Pratt is a single working mom of two young adults with special health care needs. She is a strong advocate for children and families who struggle to obtain appropriate educational support and health care services. In her role as a Senior Parent Professional Trainer, Nicole works with parents, teachers, administrators, and community organizations in New Jersey and nationwide. Nicole is a Diverse Parent Engagement Development & Technical Assistance Facilitator for the Leadership in Family Professional Partnership project with Family Voices. She also serves as Project Director for the Empowering Women in Community Leadership for Healthier Families project. Nicole has a BS in Psychology and a Masters in Teaching with extensive training in Human Behavior/Positive Behavior Supports, Mental Health Facilitation, Social Determinants of Health, and Trauma-Informed Care.

Helen DuPlessis, MD, MPH, FAAP

Principal, Health Management Associates

Helen DuPlessis is an accomplished pediatrician and physician executive with 30+ years of health leadership experience. She has wide-ranging knowledge about public sector programs, maternal and child health policy and program development, early childhood, and Medicaid managed care. At HMA Helen focuses on transforming health services for women and children, local health jurisdictions, and broader delivery systems. She also provides analysis, revenue optimization, and program design recommendations for children and youth with special health care needs. She earned her medical degree and her Masters in Public Health from the University of California at San Francisco and Los Angeles, respectively. 

Related Grants

This policy brief by the National Alliance to Advance Adolescent Health looks at what happens when low-income youth and young adults with chronic conditions and disabilities age out of the Title V Program for Children and Youth with Special Health Care Needs and provides policy recommendations.

This policy brief by the National Alliance to Advance Adolescent Health investigates the changes that result when low-income youth and young adults with disabilities lose their childhood eligibility status under SSI following the age 18 redetermination process and provides policy recommendations.