MORRIS – “Amelia was born at 27 weeks. She was a twin, she lost her twin brother,” says Coco Sellman, of Morris, as she looks at her step-daughter who is non-verbal and uses a wheelchair.
Amelia – now 19 – spent 100 days in the hospital as a baby which was grueling for her family. Eventually, she came home but her condition declined during childhood.
“We discovered that she would qualify for nursing at home. This was a game-changer for us,” says Sellman. “Now they can do all these interventions they would do in the hospital here and now she hasn’t been in the hospital since 2018.”
This transformative care is why Coco Sellman is now desperate to help other Connecticut families, in crisis, unable to leave the hospital due to a lack of home nurses.
“There are quite literally patients who’ve been in the hospital 8, 12, 16, 18 months,” she explains, noting the problems this can cause in kids. “Children have to be, especially as they’re developing, have to be heard, with people who are playing with them, loving them, making eye contact with them. If that’s not happening, their progress declines.”
In 2017, rates were slashed for skilled continuous nursing. Then the problem worsened during the pandemic.
“Over the course of the last 15 months, dollars have flowed into other care environments and, as a result, those care environments can offer nurses $10-$15 dollars an hour more than we can,” says Sellman who, after her experience with Amelia, founded Allume Home Care, a licensed and Medicare accredited home health agency matching families with nurses.
“We had hired in 2019, 109 nurses and this year, year to date, we’ve hired,” says Sellman. “So we’re not treading water here.”
“What we’re finding is that the lack of nursing, specifically pediatric nursing, is impacting our ability to discharge,” says Allison Matthews-Wilson, Director of Care Coordinations at Connecticut Children’s.
She says this also negatively impacts hospitals, meant for acute care, not long stays.
“I think it’s time that we take a look at how we can advocate on a state level for pediatric well care,” she says.
And there is a push now for change.
Recently, the Connecticut Association for Healthcare at Home sent a letter to the Department of Social Services and the Office of Policy and Management, asking for funds to be allocated from the American Rescue Plan and to increase home health Medicaid rates.
“We’re asking the Governor, we’re asking the Department of Social Services, we’re asking the Office of Policy and Management to please advocate on our behalf and allow us to use some of those funds on home health,” says Sellman. “Am I hopeful? I have to remain hopeful but I’m very dissatisfied with what’s happened. We’ve been left out again and again.”
For Sellman, it’s her step-daughter that drives this mission…time spent together, meaningful moments in the comfort of the family home.
“She’s a happy kid, she goes to school every day for eight hours a day, she’s extremely involved in her community,” she says. “If she didn’t have that, she wouldn’t be Amelia.”
Requests for statements from DSS and OPM went unanswered. In an email, the Governor’s spokesman responded, “Governor Lamont proposed support for home care workers in his ARPA plan which was presented to the General Assembly in April.”