A Practical Program for Children’s Health Rights

Image property of health.howstuffworks.com

Over the last few weeks I have been very aware of an increasing amount of news articles related to children’s health rights.  I have seen discussions around immunization, court rulings on parent’s ability to opt their children out of treatment, laws passed on medical marijuana availability to children, and if you type in Obamacare and children you will receive around 105 million results. This is not a new issue, but it seems to be trending in a unique way at the moment.

Each of these items is directed to some level at policy.  What rights are protected?  How do we treat children medically compared to adults?  Who should be covered?  These are all valid questions, but primarily coming from a theoretical space, with a few inroads being made into practical application.  Some area schools, however, are doing something very practical that could have more real world effect on the rights of children than many of these overarching policies filtering down through the legal and political systems.

Image property of health.howstuffworks.com

Image property of health.howstuffworks.com

This year the KIPP Public Schools in Houston, Texas will institute a program called KIPP Care that will locate health care clinics for students on the school campuses.  Nurse practitioners and overseeing pediatricians will be located on campus with the ability to give immunizations, prescribe medicines, conduct physicals and give treatment for a variety of minor and long-term conditions.  The program works with Medicaid, public and private insurance, or offers an inexpensive fee-based option for usage.  The hope is that this program could expand to the broader community in the future.

This is an example of a program that could affect the health rights of children on a very practical day-to-day basis.  Access is one of the major factors in why a family may not go to see a doctor.  This is likely also part of the reason why clinics are becoming more popular for families that a traditional doctors office setting, but even here there are issues.

I recently enrolled my 4-year old in a new school after a move.  As part of that process I needed to get a well child check up and immunizations with all the appropriate documentation.  20 phone calls to medical offices, 4 visits to clinics and 2 discussions with the school later I was finally able to get at least the well child checkup done in order for my child to start school the next week.  It took an additional two weeks to get the immunizations.  Many wasted hours and accumulated stress went into this process.  I am lucky that I have the flexibility both temporally and financially to accommodate the process, but that is not necessarily the case for many families out there.  What would their options be?  Not have their child in school?  Forge a signature? Ignore it and hope the schools record keeping doesn’t pick it up?  An on campus clinic can provide access and convenience in a way that creates a positive situation for the families and children involved rather than a stressor.

Another benefit from this program is a child’s exposure to the medical staff.  Rather than seeing a stranger once every few years for painful shots and uncomfortable check ups, students are able to build a relationship with people they see on and around campus daily.  A practitioner can form a trust in which well-being is the object, which may hopefully grow with the child, promoting a positive relationship with the medical system.

As anyone involved in education can tell you, it doesn’t take much to pull a child away from education.  Distraction, sleepiness, hunger and maybe especially sickness can stop the learning process in its tracks.   We already limit distraction nd feed our students and now, being able to holistically aid a student on campus can be a great help.  If a child is sick, they aren’t sent home to a parent in hopes that they’ll get the treatment they need; they are treated.  Students aren’t removed from class after class and forced to play catch up upon their return; they instead may miss minutes.

This is a child-first practical, hands-on program that can positively effect the health education and–to an extent–family of its students.  In contrast with policies that try to filter down to make a change, with success it may be able to filter up to change policy.

N.J. Law Grants Sick Children Access to Edible Medical Marijuana

Medical Marijuana

As reported by CNN, New Jersey passed into law on Tuesday a measure allowing sick children access to edible medical marijuana.

Qualifying minors in New Jersey will now have a wider variety of treatment options, and the new law will remove the limit on the number of marijuana strains that may be cultivated.

The new law also requires parental permission for edible marijuana to be made available to minors through tablets, capsules, drops or syrups, according to New Jersey Assembly Democrats who advanced the legislation.

[Governor] Christie, a Republican, vetoed the original bill in August and said he would sign legislation that included a rule that edible marijuana would be dispensed only to minors and that a psychiatrist and a physician both would have to approve before a minor could join the program.

The final version of the bill includes both of Christie’s demands, according to a news release from the state’s Assembly Democrats.

The passing of this bill is a heartening multi-party response to what has typically been (in my opinion, somewhat unreasonably) a divisive topic.  The winner here is ill children and their parents who have more comprehensive health options for disease treatment.  One example of such is laid out in the article.

The bill was originally proposed after Brian and Meghan Wilson of Union City began a campaign to get what could be life-saving treatment for their 2-year-old daughter, Vivian. She has Dravet syndrome, a severe form of epilepsy for which anti-seizure medicine is ineffective, according to Democrats’ statement this week.

Hopefully this children first policy can be a template for political parties to find inroads to compromise that shy away from antiquated rhetoric and place our families’ best interests at the forefront.

Texas Supreme Court Hears Same-Sex Divorce Cases

Last Friday, the Texas Supreme Court announced plans to hear two cases in which same-sex couples married in Massachusetts are seeking a divorce in Texas.  As of this time, Texas does not recognize gay marriage as a state.  As reported by the Austin-American Statesman:

The cases, involving couples from Austin and Dallas, will be the first test of Texas’ ban on same-sex marriage since the U.S. Supreme Court determined this summer that marriage laws can be unconstitutional if they relegate legally married same-sex couples to second-class status.

Oral argument will be Nov. 5, and a ruling isn’t expected for months afterward.

Attorney General Greg Abbott argues that Texas law not only limits marriage to opposite-sex couples, it forbids any action — including divorce — that recognizes or validates a same-sex marriage obtained out of state.

Lawyers for the couples, two Austin women and two Dallas men who were married in Massachusetts, say Abbott lacks the authority to intervene in their lives because divorce is a private matter that does not obligate Texas to recognize same-sex marriages performed in another state.

But if Texas can deny same-sex couples the right to divorce, then the state’s ban on gay marriage should be overturned, the couples argue.

In a legal climate in which the Supreme Court of the United States this summer overturned portions of DOMA, the repercussions of acknowledging or denying a divorce for a state where same-sex marriage is unrecognized will be widespread.  One aspect to be watched will be how children of same-sex couples will be addressed in regards to custody, visitation, and parents rights.  The state may be able to address the issue as they would unmarried straight co-parents, but the murky waters of this issue are yet to be resolved.  For the sake of children whose parents are going through a divorce, you hope the courts can delicately and deftly navigate the legal aspects involved.  It will be even more crucial that our judges and lawyers approach these discussions with compassion and support in the proceeding months.