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Closing the Gap Through Enhanced, Family-Centered Approaches to Care Navigation: Increasing Successful Referrals for Developmental Delays With Colorado Project LAUNCH

by Lorraine F. Kubicek, Lisa Jansen Thompson, Antonio Luna, Stephanie Henderson, and Rachel Hubbard

Abstract

Increasing numbers of young children are now routinely screened for developmental delays during well-child visits in primary care settings which support early identification of developmental delays. Unfortunately, research indicates that there is often a gap between the number of children who receive an abnormal screen and the number who successfully follow through with a referral for further evaluation. This article highlights how, with support from Colorado Project LAUNCH, care navigation services in South Adams County, Colorado, have evolved over the past 4 years to address these issues and successfully reduce the referral gap.

Following the recommendation of the American Academy of Pediatrics in 2006 (Council on Children with Disabilities, 2006), increasing numbers of young children are now routinely screened for developmental delays during well-child visits in primary care settings (Radecki, Sand-Loud, O’Connor,Sharp, & Olson, 2011; Schonwald, Huntington, Chan, Risko, & Bridgemohan, 2009). Screening is important because early identification of developmental delays can help young children and their families gain access to intervention services during the critical first years when those interventions are most likely to improve developmental outcomes (Kavanagh, Gerdes, Sell, Jimenez, & Guevara, 2012). Unfortunately, there is often a gap between the number of children who receive an abnormal screen and the number who successfully follow through with a referral for further evaluation (Dawson & Camp, 2014; King et al., 2010; Talmi et al., 2014). Research has shown that lack of follow-through or unsuccessful referrals are linked to a variety of issues such as agency procedures, parent misunderstanding or inaction, lack of systems coordination, and poor communication between intervention services and pediatric practices (Bricker, Macy, Squires, & Marks, 2013). This article highlights how, with support from Colorado Project LAUNCH (COPL), care navigation services in South Adams County, Colorado, have evolved over the past 4 years to address these issues and successfully reduce the referral gap. This enhanced, family-centered approach includes placing a care navigator in participating health clinics as well as in early intervention and mental health settings where they are responsible for ensuring families who receive a referral are provided comprehensive, high-quality supports in following through with a referral.

Early identification of developmental delays can help young children and their families gain access to intervention services during the critical first years.

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