Digital Access Program: Bridging The Divide By Getting Families Online
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Digital Access Program: Bridging The Divide By Getting Families Online

Technology affects almost every aspect of our lives, from our kids’ schooling and socialization, to our work, healthcare, and entertainment. Reliable access to the internet can mean greater success, less isolation, and more opportunities.

For children and families living with neurologic conditions, access to digital resources is vital. Digital access is their avenue to telehealth and educational resources. It can truly be a lifeline.

Alarmed at the growing digital divide, CNF launched our first digital access pilot program over the summer to provide families with the resources and support they need to have online access to telehealth, an online community, and digital educational resources.

We’re providing Google Chromebooks, WIFI “hotspots,” and a year’s worth of data to 100 families in Minnesota and Kentucky.

We’re here to help. If you, or someone you know, can benefit from our Digital Access Program, please contact our programs team at programs@childneurologyfoundation.org to learn more about how we can help.

This pilot program is open to families in Minnesota or Kentucky that has at least one child with a neurologic condition, and lives in an underserved community. Learn more about eligibility to participate in the program here. 

What Is The Digital Access Program?

The indirect participants in this program will be the providers who treat children living with neurologic conditions at multiple service organizations in the two locationsThese providers will be instrumental in identifying the children most in need of assistance and providing feedback about the enrollment process 

The pilot will take place from June, 2021-June, 2022. (Equipment acquired by the program will be given to the family to keep, data for hotspot will be maintained for one year).  After the pilot is complete, the program will be expanded in additional cities.

Identified partners include the University of Kentucky, the Washburn Center for Children, Courage Kenny Rehabilitation Institute, PCs for People, and providers treating children with neurologic conditions in the two areas.

The indirect participants in this program will be the providers who treat children living with neurologic conditions at multiple service organizations in the two locationsThese providers will be instrumental in identifying the children most in need of assistance and providing feedback about the enrollment process 

The pilot will take place from June, 2021-June, 2022. (Equipment acquired by the program will be given to the family to keep, data for hotspot will be maintained for one year).  After the pilot is complete, the program will be expanded in additional cities.

Digital Access Means:

Access To Telehealth

Almost overnight, telehealth became a significant tool to for patients and their families to engage with their providers

Many positives came from this: children that had to wait over 9 weeks (about 2 months) to see a child neurologist were suddenly able to see their provider in less than a week from scheduling the appointment using telehealth according to a survey done by the Child Neurology Foundation. 

But for many families, lack of access to high-quality broadband and/or hardware meant they could not access the same convenient care

Access To Community

Families with kids experiencing disabilities are under a significant amount of stress and are often are in search of additional support for emotional needs and assistance in navigating the healthcare system.

One study out of The University of British Columbia that found that almost all study participants “described receiving valuable support through informal networks, and this support mitigated some of the shortcomings of the formal healthcare system. 

CNF has heard similar feedback from participants in our Peer Support Program. Our organization has a virtual oneonone peer support program to provide emotional support and assistance finding resources to parents on their diagnosis and treatment journey.

In the time of COVID, this connection with a community oothers who have similar experiences is imperative for caregivers to not feel isolated. With risk of infection preventing in person meet ups and opportunities to connect, being online and connected is more important than ever. 

Access To Online Resources

Families often find supportive information, education, and resources outside of their provider or healthcare system. 

These valuable resources empower the family to maintain a high quality of life. One organization that CNF interviewed, Courage Kenny Rehabilitation Institute, shared that many of their kids do not qualify for resources, grants, or other government programs but are still in desperate need of assistance with digital access; their families represent the twelve million Americans who make up our country’s working poor (“An Overview of American’s Working Poor”)

If these families are not able to access resources online, these families stay stuck in the violent, systemic cycles that keep them in poverty, contributing to lower quality of life, lower educational attainment, and lower healthcare outcomes.

Why now?

For children living with neurologic conditions and their families, the COVID-19 pandemic has highlighted the need for equitable access to digital resources, as technology is needed to access online healthcare and schooling.

In late 2020, Pew Research Center estimated that 59% of American families faced “digital obstacles” in accessing schoolwork and one would expect these families to also face barriers in accessing telehealth. In addition, the isolation caused by the pandemic increases the need for digital resources to stay connected with a community. Studies have demonstrated that children’s mental health is worse in times of isolation but can be alleviated with tools to keep children connected.

This need is felt even more when one is a member of a vulnerable community like those with disabilities. A recent article indicated that technology access issues are more concentrated in historically underserved populations, exactly the population that would benefit most from improved access to care via telehealth.

Moreover, expert interviews have indicated that many children use their school-provided technology to access telehealth, leaving their families without access during the summer holidays.

Areas Of Need

Increase income

Build community

Telehealth access

Improve quality of life

Who is eligible?

The program is for low-income and middle-income families of children living with a neurologic condition in Lexington, Kentucky, and the Twin Cities of Minnesota.

Our partner organizations (see below) will help identify families that are struggling to effectively access telehealth and help them apply. Each partner organization has maximum number of families applications that can be submitted. 

Low income allows for 200% of the federal poverty guideline: 

# of Persons in Household  Poverty Guideline – Income 
1  $12,760 
2  $17,240 
3  $21,720 
4  $26,200 
5  $30,680 
6  $35,160 
7  $39,640 
8  $44,120 

Middle income: The Census Bureau definition the median income for average American in 2020 was $68,400Families making this amount will also be eligible for the CNF digital resources assistance program. 

Our Partners

We will share the application process for the families with these organizations so that their providers can help families find the resource and sign up. 

Minnesota 

    • Washburn Center for Children: This organization provides mental health services to children in the Twin Cities metro area. More than 60% of children they serve come from families with low incomes. 
    • Courage Kenny Rehabilitation Institute: This organization provides inpatient and outpatient rehabilitative and community services for both children and adults.  

Kentucky 

    • University of Kentucky HealthCare: Multiple departments serve the greater Kentucky area 

In addition to distribution partners, CNF will partner with an organization called PCs for People to providthe logistical support of procuring, shipping, and storing the digital resources. In addition to a CNF staff member dedicated to monitoring family experience, PCs for People also has a staff member that will provide technological training.  

Big thank you to:

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