Help is on The Way

Yesterday, I had the opportunity to take Ethan to “New Jersey Transition to Adulthood Comprehensive Care” or NJTACC. Their websites states that they are:

an interdisciplinary team designed to assist teens and young adults with intellectual and developmental disabilities as they face the challenges associated with their transition to adult services and medical care.

Specialty Care Plainsboro Front View

It was music to my ears, but my cynical side kicked right in, telling me to reserve any hope I might have for after the appointment.

I am very pleased to inform you that I am hopeful!

The clinic is the dream of Program Manager, Stephanie Pratico. Of all Ms. Pratico’s titles, the most impressive is ‘mom’. She herself is the mother of two beautiful young adults with Down Syndrome and to me, that carries more weight than most academic credentials. She expressed to me that she knew this was a necessary service and she was all too aware that parents were struggling with the transition out of the pediatric care and educational entitlement. I am grateful she conceived this idea and I am pleased that Ethan is her first patient.

We saw  Alyssa Siegel, MD who weighed in on Ethan’s medical issues. She was super-thorough, asking ALL the perinent questions and some that had not been posed to us before. She asked me to prioritize the medical issues that were challenging us presently and told us she is prepared to make phone calls and coordinate care on our behalf. She is willing and able to use a patient portal and email for communication and is interested in using ‘Skype-type’ services for future meetings. I welcome all 21st Century support, as it makes life easier and care more accessible.

Dr. Siegel is highly experienced and attentive and I am looking forward to her joining “Team Ethan”.

Ethan was clear he did not want to be involved in the conversation during our visit, but was sure to pipe up and correct me on several occassions!

Ms. Practico asked us where we were with financial and legal issues and was prepared to offer assistance and gather resouces, if needed. Thankfully, we have much of that done, but she did give us some advice on an SSI issue that we had not considered in the past.

One of most unique facets of the program is the representation of the Division of Developmental Disabilities. I have a long list of issues with DDD, many that I have addressed with DDD representatives in the past. The system in NJ is new, complicated and fraught with pitfalls. Many of my interactions with the system have been contentious, ineffective and unrewarding. But, meeting face-to-face and dealing with one issue at a time in a setting where the goal is support and advocacy changed that game altogether. We outlined several concrete tasks that might streamline the process and educate some providers in the system. I was able to hear that my transportation concerns, while they won’t be solved overnight, are a serious and significant concern of the division and some steps are being taken to attempt to make transportation accessible to individuals using DDD budgets.

I am eager to see, if within this model of care, we can make some headway to straighten out the ‘sticky’ parts and smooth out some difficult processes.

My impression, so far, is that this clinic is a great idea, with competant and caring staff, a good location and a nice facilty. It has the potential to fill a HUGE GAP in the care of young people with developmental disabilities. Ethan was honestly, Patient #1 (I like to think #1 Patient :)) So we have some ‘time testing’ to do, but I’m in – wholeheartedly – which is the only way I know how to do this.

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