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Kilili: Up to $774,000 now available to help special needs families

WASHINGTON, D.C. (Office of the CNMI Congressional Delegate) —  Island families with special needs children will be able to get — and give — help to other families with the same experience, as a result of work by U.S. Congressman Gregorio Kilili Camacho Sablan and other insular area representatives in the current Congress.

The representatives were able to expand the Family-to-Family Health Information Centers program to include U.S. territories and tribes in Public Law 115-123 this January, along with $12 million in funding to cover two year’s cost. And the U.S. Health Resources and Service Administration announced this week the funding is now available for the first year: up to $774,000 for each insular area.

 “Special needs children and their families touch all our hearts,” Congressman Kilili said.

“And no one knows more about how to navigate the complexities of getting care for those kids than the families who have already done it. That is the power of the family-to-family centers. They are typically staffed by family members, who have first-hand experience on how to get access to health care services and programs for children and youth with special health care needs.

“This peer-to-peer counseling has proven to be a very effective model for ensuring that care gets to the kids who need it,” Kilili noted.

The centers serve about one million family members nationwide, but until now the program was not available in the Marianas, Puerto Rico, Guam, American Samoa, and the U.S. Virgin Islands. That can now change.

Insular area representatives in Congress succeeded in getting the necessary language into the Championing Healthy Kids Act, H.R. 3922, when it passed the House in December last year. They then lobbied to include expansion of the Family-to-Family program — and needed funding — when the Senate acted in January on a continuing appropriation measure that also reauthorized the Children’s Health Insurance Program, or CHIP. Their provision is in Section 50501 of the Bipartisan Budget Act of 2018.

“The legislative process can be a winding road,” Sablan explained. “And piggybacking on must-pass legislation, as we did here, is the tried-and-true method to get what you want.”

“Special needs families do not care how it gets done. They just want to see results.”

The U.S. Health Resources and Service Administration announced the funding availability this week. Domestic faith-based and community-based organizations in the insular areas are eligible to apply.

For more details, see

Applications are due by July 19, 2018.