Easterseals DuPage & Fox Valley: Empowering children with disabilities and their families

November 16, 2022 | by Edward-Elmhurst Health

Grant funding from Edward-Elmhurst Health is enabling Easterseals DuPage & Fox Valley to expand its Pediatric Mental Health Program to support and empower children with disabilities and their families.

The program’s expansion is being supported through Edward-Elmhurst Health’s Community Investment Fund. In July 2022, Edward-Elmhurst Heath announced it had awarded $3,994,000 to 14 organizations across Cook, DuPage and Will Counties with the goal of advancing health equity and supporting local economic growth.

Easterseals DuPage & Fox Valley empowers children with disabilities and their families through pediatric rehabilitation therapies and mental health services designed to support the whole family. The organization offers comprehensive services including occupational, physical and speech-language therapies, assistive technology, medical nutrition, audiology, autism services and inclusive childcare. It also connects families with a care coordinator and social workers through its mental health services.

"Family support has always been foundational to what we do,” said Theresa Forthofer, President and CEO.

In August 2021, Easterseals adopted mental health as a core service.

“Our mission is to ensure that children with disabilities and their families are empowered, and mental health directly reflects that,” said Kelly Moreland, Vice President of Development.

Forthofer said, “The COVID-19 pandemic really opened our eyes to the mental health needs of our clients and families, which was beyond the scope of our historic wraparound family support services.”

The grant from Edward-Elmhurst Health will aid the Pediatric Mental Health Program in hiring staff and ensuring they receive expert training, including training for infant mental health. Over the past year, Easterseals increased their number of social workers from two to seven and employed a care coordinator to help with resources and major transitions for families. They have also hired a bilingual psychologist for autism diagnostics and services.

The funding will also help remove barriers to care and promote health equity by enabling the program to accept all insurance and provide financial assistance.

“The support from Edward-Elmhurst Health enabled us to grow quickly so we could meet needs regardless of a family's financial situation or insurance status,” said Forthofer.

In addition to helping children and their families navigate mental health challenges, Easterseals DuPage & Fox Valley provides social-emotional care and offers a free online tool in both Spanish and English at askeasterseals.com to help families screen for their child's social-emotional health. Families then receive resources and can connect with Easterseals if their child requires more follow-up.

“We feel strongly about the importance of early intervention,” said Forthofer. “If we can get kids as early as possible, they are more likely to succeed in school, in jobs and in life.”

Learn more about Edward-Elmhurst’s Community Investment Fund partners.

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