Morrow County nurses speak out for BCMH kids and families

By Alberta Stojkovic - The Sentinel

Morrow County retired nurses Francis Turner and Jean Smith got wind of the budget cuts Governor Kasich presented to the legislature for changes in the Bureau for Children with Medical Handicaps (BCMH.) They decided that taking funds from children with serious and crippling illnesses was unacceptable and became determined to get involved with the issue.

Smith attended the subcommittee hearing of the Health and Human Services Subcommittee at the Statehouse in Columbus to hear testimony. Smith worked for several years as a nurse for the Morrow County Health Dept. where the BCMH program was one of her assignments.

Turner submitted written testimony in a letter to the Health and Human Services Subcommittee of the Finance Committee. Turner was Head Nurse at the Morrow County Health Dept. for 25 years in the 1970s-1990s.

Turner noted in her letter that the BCMH diagnostic program, through referrals to Children’s Hospital specialists, was the only way some parents could afford medical care for their children. She also noted that Public Health Nurses play a vital role in educating families and making sure medications and treatments are followed correctly.

Kay Benick, who is presently Director of Nursing for the Morrow County Health Dept., said there are currently 150 families enrolled in BCMH in Morrow County. There are 40,000 enrolled in Ohio and the numbers are increasing from year to year.

Benick said that this is a program that has kept working and middle class families from going under financially. While half the families in the BCMH program are already using Medicaid as a primary payer for medical treatment, moving the program to Medicaid for the rest, as proposed by the Governor, would remove the safety net for families where coverage is denied by insurance.

Families of children with serious illnesses and health professionals have been effective advocates to keep the BCMH program going over the past few years as medical costs rise along with the number of families needing help.

Joanne Trainer worked as a nurse for the Morrow County Health Dept. for 15 years in the BCMH program. She saw first-hand what a difference it made not only in getting help for seriously ill children, but also in relieving the worry and financial stress for parents.

Trainer also noted that many Amish families in the county accepted help from the BCMH program for their children since they were paying property taxes that went towards paying for the program. This is one of the few state programs in which the Amish participate.

Boomer Esiason, of Cincinnati Bengals fame, spoke at a news conference Tuesday held by House Speaker, Cliff Rosenberger. Esiason’s son Gunner was diagnosed with Cystic Fybrosis at the age of three and is now 26 years old and a graduate of Boston College. Esiason spoke of the “enormous financial stress for families” that have children with serious illnesses. Medical costs of Cystic Fibrosis and other diseases can be as high as $300,000 per year.

At the end of the Tuesday press conference, both Rosenberger and Rep. Mark Romanchuk assured the media and families that the Finance Committee would not recommend that changes or cuts be made in the budget for the BCMH program. They did state that there may need to be a study of how changes could be made for more efficiency in the program, but that should be done outside the negotiations of changes for the budget.

By Alberta Stojkovic

The Sentinel

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