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Transformative program at Ronald McDonald House better supporting families

Posted at 10:08 AM, Mar 09, 2021
and last updated 2021-03-22 12:18:52-04

A child is sick, and now the family needs to relocate near the hospital where their little one is being treated.

Enter the Ronald McDonald House - an incredible organization surrounding families with the support they need to be near or care for their seriously ill children being treated at area hospitals like Intermountain Primary Children's Hospital, University of Utah, or Shriner's Hospital for Children.

"They’ve left their home, their neighbors, their church, their dog, their schools, their support system, and their extended family and they’re navigating an unfamiliar medical system in an unfamiliar town. We give them a soft landing spot, uh, with lots of practical support, and love and compassion, so they in turn can help their child heal," says Carrie Romano, Chief Executive Officer of Ronald McDonald House Charities Intermountain Area, Inc.

But sometimes the groups that help others need their own assistance.

"This was a long time vision of caring," says Jim Swayze, President of Regence BlueCross BlueShield of Utah.

Swayze says together with Cambia Health Foundation, Regence is providing on-site palliative and behavioral health specialists at the Ronald McDonald House where these families are staying.

"It really makes so much sense to treat the families that are really in these traumatic type crisis situations," says Swayze.

The first-of-its kind pilot program launched at Salt Lake's Ronald McDonald House amid the COVID-19 pandemic last fall.

Romano says the program has been "transformative" for the organization. "We have always done a good job with princess parties and superhero parties. We’re very good at hospitality. We’ve never had skilled mental health support. So we feel like it’s a game changer and we’re really excited about this opportunity," says Romano.

In the first two months the program supported dozens of families, also helping them to find housing after their long-term stays, and when needed, planning hospice and helping make funeral arrangements.

This program is unique in that it gives families the tools and resources in their greatest time of need. "Having someone in there that’s trained and can really lead this and help these families," says Swayze.

The Ronald McDonald House serves an average of 3,600 families per year, and this new tool is a game changer to ensure they are meeting the needs of these families.

"I think it has the potential to be replicated in other communities and we’re really excited about that," says Romano.

If you would like to learn more about Ronald McDonald House charities visit rhmslc.org.