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(609) 292-0600
RELEASE: June 20, 2007

Catastrophic Illness in Children Relief Fund Commission Announces Annual Awards for Families
 TRENTON , NJ - The Catastrophic Illness in Children Relief Fund Commission (CICRFC) today announced that it has approved over $8 million in grants this fiscal year to help pay medical costs for 334 New Jersey families struggling to pay uncovered medical expenses for their sick children. “The Fund is proud to say that it was able to help these families this year, therefore fulfilling its mandate to the people of the State.” said Ralph Condo , Executive Director of CICRFC.

At its annual June meeting, the Commission also acknowledged two recipient families who participated in the filming of a general service announcement (GSA) produced by New Jersey Network which airs on NJN Public Television around children's programming and in the evenings around the New Jersey State Lottery. The GSA, which features families at the scenic New Jersey shore as well as in the comfort of their own back yards, emphasizes that any and all families in the state can be helped by the Fund. ”These families were outstanding in helping us spread the word about the Fund to other families in need and we honor and thank them for their generosity and willingness.” said Condo

Department of Human Services Chief of Staff, Diane Zompa, attended CICRF's annual meeting on behalf of Acting Commissioner, Jennifer Velez. She praised the dedication of the Commission members and the tenacity of the parents who need the financial relief provided by the fund. “This fund is one of the best programs our state offers,” said Velez. “I'm heartened to see that the Fund provides hope for so many New Jersey families with nowhere else to turn, and that it does what it was intended to do! It also exemplifies a successful partnership of New Jersey citizens, the business community and state government.”

Jane Lorber, chairperson and public member, noted that since 1989, the Commission has approved grants totaling $108 million for more than 4400 families. “The families have their own unique stories to tell but are not unlike most New Jersey families who work hard and pay their bills. Yet when faced with the daunting challenge of caring for a sick child and dealing with mounting medical bills, daily life can begin to feel overwhelming,” Lorber said
Several families who have benefited from the fund and now serve as volunteers on the CICRFC Family Advisory Committee also attended the meeting. “I would like to personally thank those families here today who continue to extend themselves despite their own difficult circumstances. Your efforts to assist other families have helped make the program so successful and so rewarding,” said Commission member William A. B. Ditto, director of DHS's Division of Disability Services, who has chaired the Family Advisory Committee since its inception in 1989.

According to Condo, families of any income may qualify for financial help if a child's unreimbursed medical and related expenses exceed 10 percent of the family's annual income up to $100,000, plus 15 percent of any income over $100,000.

The Fund does not restrict coverage to a specific diagnosis or disease and covers hospital and physician bills, medications, disposable medical goods, medical equipment, medically-related home and vehicle modification and transportation, and home care.

Children 21 years or younger are eligible, and families must be state residents. Expenses must have been incurred during a previous 12-month period, and expenses dating back to January 1988 will be considered. The Fund is collected from an annual surcharge on employers of $1 per employee.

The fund is proud to have helped 22 young adults with over $500,000 in awards for uncovered medical expenses, thus making a significant impact on this group in transition between the ages of 18 and 21, this year.

“We define ‘catastrophic' in terms of the economic impact a child's illness has on the family,” said Condo. “A family may have health insurance, but coverage can be inadequate when a child has a serious, expensive illness or injury. The Fund can help families avoid financial crisis and return to the routine responsibilities of life.”

While legislation creating the fund protects the anonymity of families who have received grant awards, several families attended the annual meeting to share their experience as a way of encouraging other families in need to apply for assistance. Giving some moving testimony below are Thomas Geoffroy (left) and Evelyn Hannah.

For more information on the Catastrophic Illness in Children Relief Fund, call Ralph J. Condo, Executive Director, at 609-292-0600 or the Family Information Line, 1-800-335-FUND.

Families scheduled to attend June 20, 2007:

Margaret Ireland and Mary Geary of Egg Harbor Township, Atlantic County, adopted Michael who is now deceased, but who had multiple cardiac and kidney disorders as well as a spastic quadriplegia. They also adopted other medically fragile children and are fostering others with hopes of adopting in the future. Michael was 3 ½ years old when they modified their home to accommodate his special needs, including an accessible bathroom and widened doorways and hallways. They also applied for CICRF relief for his sister Hailey, who is now 4 years old and has cerebral palsy, developmental delays and esophageal reflux. The Commission awarded this family $26, 419 for Michael's application and $25, 687 for Hailey's application, recognizing that the entire modification would have been shared by the two children and their siblings who are also disabled and medically fragile.

Patricia Fries of Rutherford, Bergen County, was insured when her daughter Tara, now 15, required spinal surgery for her curvature of the spine. She was left with uncovered expenses due to out-of-network providers and expenses not covered by her insurance plan. The Fund relieved her of a $28,081 debt.

Eunice Shin of River Vale, Bergen County, knew she had to obtain specialized transportation for her son Timothy, now 16, who has cerebral palsy and a curvature of the spine. She applied to the Fund for assistance with a modified van to accommodate his power wheelchair which he uses for mobility. To help offset the cost of his specialized transportation needs, the Fund awarded this family $35,985.

Peter and Patricia Vetrano of Medford, Burlington County, had to modify their home to care for the needs of their daughter Christina, now 17 years old. Christina has cerebral palsy, a seizure disorder, very poor vision and requires total care for all activities of daily living. She uses a wheelchair for mobility. This family modified their home for ease of care and accessibility and also purchased a modified vehicle to accommodate her wheelchair. The Commission awarded the family $41,307 for home and vehicle modifications and other expenses not covered by insurance.

Rodger and Elizabeth Laube of Swedesboro, Gloucester County, had to modify their home to accommodate the increasing needs of their growing son Andrew, now 14, who has cerebral palsy. He requires assistance with most activities of daily living, so the family had to add a first floor bathroom, widen bedroom doors and add ramps to the front and back of the house. This gave Andrew both access and egress while providing his parents more ease of care giving. The Fund eased the financial burden of this uncovered expense with an award of $26,950.

Peter and Carrie Foley, of Farmingdale, Monmouth County, were both insured when their premature son Nicholas was born at 27 weeks gestation with a cleft lip and palate and cardiac abnormalities. He is now 4 ½ years old. With both parents being insured, they did not think they would have any problems with leftover medical expenses. They applied to the Fund for two years in a row and received awards for $442,008 for 2002, and $32,748 for 2003. They now know they can reapply annually for any leftover expenses not covered by insurance, that exceed 10% of the 1 st $100,000 of income and 15%of any excess income over $100,000.

Darnell and Evelyn Hannah of Neptune, Monmouth County, adopted Passion in 2002 along with her twin sister Portia. Passion is now 10 years old, uses a wheelchair and requires total care for all aspects of daily living. She has cerebral palsy, a seizure disorder and very poor vision. Although insured, the Hannah's' knew that they needed to buy a modified vehicle to accommodate Passions' specialized transportation needs. The Fund helped offset that cost with an award of $37,778. Two years later, as Passion grew; they needed to expand their home to meet her growing needs. The Fund awarded them $25,000 to modify their home for ease of care and accessibility issues.

Thomas and Linda Geoffrey of Jackson, Ocean County , modified their home to accommodate the needs of their son David, now 16 years old. The family converted existing space into first floor living space for David and widened the hallway so that he could access it with his wheelchair. They also modified a van they already owned to make it accessible for David to ride in. The Fund relieved the family of these expenses, which totaled over $11,000.

Joseph and Robin Kerns Bouchet of Woodstown, Salem County, were insured when they modified their home and purchased some durable medical equipment for their son Andrew, aged 14, who has cerebral palsy, epilepsy and developmental delays. After adding an accessible bedroom and bathroom, plus a barrier-free ceiling lift, they were assisted by the Fund with $30,379 to help offset the cost of this uncovered medical expense.

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