Follow up: For the Chil’ren

Since writing my piece last week I thought it might be helpful to share what other things I’ve learned, and my guesses/ thoughts about these for whatever they’re worth. I am not a journalist- quite the opposite. I write about my own personal experiences and opinions. I try very hard to share things with the honesty that I don’t always know why they are what they are. That’s what I will be doing here. I will be sharing what I’ve heard, without knowing whether it’s either widespread or significant. Without any means to verify, and without anyone who is willing to attach their names openly to these things, you can take these as the output of Remy the Rumor Mill. You might be surprised, but it’s not uncommon for readers to reach out to me personally to fill in gaps about various things so I understand more clearly. Such was the case with my previous post. I have a few friends who’ve worked for CHOA that reached out. Additionally, Candice Broce asked a fellow Peach Pundit writer for my number, with the request running through my husband rather than me. My number was provided. I haven’t received a call. My husband requested her number from the fellow Peach Pundit writer as well. Alas, it has not been shared. I imagine if I were running DHS and DFCS simultaneously I wouldn’t have time for me either. I do hope Commissioner Broce and I have the opportunity to chat at some point in the future. I’d love to be able to clarify things.

I did hear that the AJC reporter, Yamil Berard, who wrote the original piece on CHOA’s finances, has left the AJC. I have no idea the circumstances, but I mourn the loss of a well-researched writer. Ms. Berard has a gift that our state needs and I hope we shall see it again in other pieces. Concurrently, it’s my understanding from a few folks that the AJC is losing some of their writers of color. I’ve seen/ heard the term “exodus” used. The loss of diverse perspectives in media and the shrinking media market is a challenge with which we should all be concerned. In the absence of stronger ethics laws and meaningful policy changes, the court of public opinion is often the only court the electorate has to hold anyone accountable.

It has been shared with me that the patients with medical needs that are the highest cost and most difficult often easily get “lost” in CHOA’s shuffle. From my sources, this is partially due to things going on in both DFCS and CHOA. The office at 2 Peachtree has been going through a bit of a shuffle. People I’ve worked with before may or may not be there when I follow up. At the same time, basic procedures are easily lost in the mix. On the CHOA side, it seems that CHOA “dumps” the harder cases that are more difficult to manage in order to give better care to the easier cases or more attention to those with clout/ prestige. I really questioned this when I heard it because it sounds (to me) like the dumbest method of PR and ingratiating oneself politically. Afterall, isn’t it those almost Sarah McLachlan-like ads during the end of year that CHOA promotes that gets folks to donate? Wouldn’t it be wisest to showcase the most compelling cases to ask for the biggest checks?

Exploitive? Most definitely, but effective? Without question.

Then another friend reached out and shared about how it is common practice at CHOA for executives to call ahead before admittance into the hospital to skip the wait times the general public faces. This friend shared that they too employed this practice after reaching a breaking point with their own child. This friend experienced a dramatic change for the better once calls were made. It seems that last year, many were furloughed from CHOA stating financial hardships, which makes Berard’s article coming out now particularly hard hitting.

Yet another in my circle is donating her artwork for the Hope and Will Ball, which will honor Arthur Blank this year, “for his transformational dedication to the Atlanta community”. His efforts were definitely transformational in my neck of Atlanta, for sure! I just wouldn’t think CHOA would wish to be associated with displacing historic Black neighborhoods and churches for the building of the Benz stadium, but clearly I’m incorrect. Here’s the CHOA sponsorship guide, if you wish to make a leadership level gift.

I thought all of these elements were interesting to learn in my relatively small sphere. The fact that some families receive responsive and line-skipping care while others do not seems an easy way to bump the more challenging and least likely for follow-up kids to the bottom. The friends that shared this information with me neither know one another, we didn’t speak together at the same time, and until this post is published, they do not know what the others have shared. What I do know of my friends is that they have a HIGH level of integrity, deep wells of care for children, and most want to see some accountability.

It is my understanding that accountability is what DFCS now wants from CHOA as well. It seems that whenever there is any interaction between CHOA and DFCS, senior leadership at CHOA is notified. It is also my understanding that Commissioner Broce isn’t happy with CHOA. One of my friends thinks she leaked the financial piece to Ms. Berard in order to receive better care for DFCS kids from CHOA. I do not share that opinion, although I wish I did.

What I do know for certain is that Commissioner Broce is in charge of DHS and DFCS simultaneously. This is dumb. Not because Commissioner Broce isn’t capable- more because Aging Services (under DHS) falls under this Commission and I’ve written about what a disappointment that is before here. There are always pushes for consolidation, and if there are overlapping services that can be made more efficient, I’m all for it. However, Georgia is notorious for overloading our DFCS caseworkers in comparison to other states. While we’re not TX, in that the DJJ is breathing down our throats, that can’t be said for DBHDD in the recent past. It’s unclear to me how consolidation will help this while we’re expecting more oversight of CHOA to deliver on its care of our medically fragile children in the system. The expectation of more oversight while eliminating or reshuffling the DFCS workforce seems counterintuitive at best, dangerously bordering on neglect at worst. I have to wonder why these actions are taken. Back in July, Greg Bluestein wrote about the transition from Tom Rawlings to Ms. Broce, for the AJC. I thought this part of Bluestein’s piece was of particular interest now that President Biden has rejected this plan.

“The agency plays an important role in Kemp’s plan to extend the Medicaid program without embracing a full expansion. Under a state contract, DFCS determines who is eligible for Medicaid benefits and would be critical to a new waiver proposal that Kemp is pushing.”

This all just seems like a cluster that requires untangling with a fine tooth comb. Seems an awkward time to remind folks of rising cases of a more virulent yet less deadly version of the current pandemic. At the risk of insult to injury, I will also point out that all of this messiness could have been avoided if the Governor had, you know, expanded Medicaid.

I have found that when one finds themself in a hole, it’s a general best practice to stop digging.

I am willing to continue chasing this thread if anyone else wishes to cast further light on the situation. If you, like Commissioner Broce, find yourself wanting to reach out but can’t remember how to spell my name in a Google search, please let me make it easier for you! You can always comment on my posts here. You can find me on LinkedIn, Facebook and Twitter. I have an Insta page, but unless you like lots of pictures of cats, it’s not really political at all. My cell number is 404-405-1748, and my personal email is my first name (dot) my last name (at) gmail (dot) com. I hope you won’t be a stranger and I promise I won’t bite!

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