Leadership Program Helps Health Advocates Connect More Kids and Families to Medicaid

Posted May 30, 2019
By the Annie E. Casey Foundation
Members of the 2018–19 Children's Health Leadership Network from the Casey Foundation

Mem­bers from the sec­ond class of the Children’s Health Lead­er­ship Net­work have com­plet­ed the 12-month lead­er­ship pro­gram — and pre­served, expand­ed or improved Med­ic­aid in four states along the way.

The pro­gram — launched by the Annie E. Casey Foun­da­tion, the David and Lucile Packard Foun­da­tion, and Atlantic Phil­an­thropies — equips par­tic­i­pants with the skills, con­fi­dence and rela­tion­ships need­ed to improve the health and well-being of kids and fam­i­lies in their respec­tive states.

This year’s class divid­ed into four-per­son teams and all mem­bers hailed from the South and South­west, where states have long strug­gled to help chil­dren achieve key healthy mile­stones. These teams — rep­re­sent­ing Geor­gia, Ken­tucky, Louisiana and Texas — devel­oped and exe­cut­ed a pol­i­cy agen­da for their state and uti­lized a Results Count™ approach.

By the end of the pro­gram, each team had suc­cess­es on record.

  • The Geor­gia team had facil­i­tat­ed Med­ic­aid enroll­ment and renew­al assis­tance at 225 Fed­er­al­ly Qual­i­fied Health Cen­ters through­out the state. Twen­ty per­cent of the 500,000 patients aid­ed by this effort were chil­dren, includ­ing tens of thou­sands of chil­dren who were pre­vi­ous­ly uninsured.
  • The Ken­tucky team had pro­tect­ed Med­ic­aid access with­out work require­ments for 1.4 mil­lion Ken­tuck­ians — includ­ing 551,000 chil­dren — via judi­cial rem­e­dy, col­lect­ing 12,000 pub­lic com­ments and sus­tain­ing statewide advocacy.
  • The Louisiana team had suc­cess­ful­ly advo­cat­ed for the state’s RFP for Med­ic­aid Man­aged Care Orga­ni­za­tions to offer incen­tives for devel­op­men­tal screen­ings for chil­dren ages 0 to 3. About 700,000 kids in Louisiana rely on Med­ic­aid and state children’s health insurance.
  • The Texas team had con­vened 42 orga­ni­za­tions in sup­port of pol­i­cy pri­or­i­ties for full-year, con­tin­u­ous Med­ic­aid cov­er­age for three mil­lion chil­dren across the state.

By strength­en­ing the pol­i­cy, advo­ca­cy and lead­er­ship skills of teams in chal­leng­ing states, these lead­ers achieved bold­er results for chil­dren,” says Jann Jack­son, a senior asso­ciate focused on pol­i­cy reform and advo­ca­cy at the Casey Foundation.

Par­tic­i­pant Lau­ra Guer­ra-Car­dus, deputy direc­tor of the Children’s Defense Fund-Texas, explains that the pro­gram gave her a frame­work for think­ing about pol­i­cy change, build­ing coali­tions and craft­ing effec­tive strate­gies. Her favorite part? The state team design, which — accord­ing to Guer­ra-Car­dus — enabled the Texas del­e­ga­tion to devel­op mean­ing­ful rela­tion­ships with each oth­er found­ed in trust; an under­stand­ing of each oth­er and how we work; and the abil­i­ty to build a pow­er­ful team to effect change.”


Appli­ca­tions for the program’s third class will be avail­able in 2020.

Meet the 201819 Children’s Health Lead­er­ship Net­work Participants


  • Elise Blasingame, exec­u­tive direc­tor, Healthy Moth­ers, Healthy Babies Coali­tion of Georgia
  • Lau­ra Col­bert, exec­u­tive direc­tor, Geor­gians for a Healthy Future
  • Lisa Hayes, inde­pen­dent con­sul­tant; for­mer exec­u­tive direc­tor, Chatham Coun­ty Safe­ty Net Plan­ning Council 
  • LaShun Wright, direc­tor of train­ing and tech­ni­cal assis­tance, Geor­gia Pri­ma­ry Care Association


  • Emi­ly Beau­re­gard, exec­u­tive direc­tor, Ken­tucky Voic­es for Health
  • Adri­enne Bush, exec­u­tive direc­tor, Home­less and Hous­ing Coali­tion of Kentucky
  • Dustin Pugel, pol­i­cy ana­lyst, Ken­tucky Cen­ter for Eco­nom­ic Policy
  • Cara Stew­art, chief of staff, Ken­tucky House Demo­c­ra­t­ic Cau­cus Office


  • Rae­gan A. Carter, pub­lic health pol­i­cy con­sul­tant; for­mer senior man­ag­er, Louisiana Pub­lic Health Institute
  • Jeanie Dono­van, pol­i­cy direc­tor, Louisiana Depart­ment of Health
  • Susan Nel­son, exec­u­tive direc­tor, Louisiana Part­ner­ship for Chil­dren and Families
  • Alma Stew­art, founder and direc­tor, Louisiana Cen­ter for Health Equity/​Campaign for Health Care for Everyone


  • Jen­ny Eyer, direc­tor for child health research and pol­i­cy, CHIL­DREN AT RISK
  • Lau­ra Guer­ra-Car­dus, deputy direc­tor, Children’s Defense Fund-Texas
  • Adri­ana Kohler, senior health policy asso­ciate, Tex­ans Care for Children
  • Stacey Pogue, senior pol­i­cy ana­lyst, Cen­ter for Pub­lic Pol­i­cy Priorities

About the Children’s Health Lead­er­ship Network

Launched in 2016, the Children’s Health Lead­er­ship Net­work is designed to strength­en the field of state-based advo­cates for children’s health policy.

These lead­ers can have a tremen­dous impact on the lives of chil­dren and fam­i­lies, accord­ing to Bar­bara Squires, direc­tor of Lead­er­ship Devel­op­ment at the Annie E. Casey Foundation.

Through the tire­less work of child health pol­i­cy advo­cates, hun­dreds of thou­sands of chil­dren and fam­i­lies gain or main­tain the nec­es­sary health care cov­er­age that allows them to stay healthy, and we see health dis­par­i­ties start to close,” says Squires.

With fund­ing from the Casey Foun­da­tion, the David and Lucile Packard Foun­da­tion and the Atlantic Phil­an­thropies and sup­port­ed by the George­town Uni­ver­si­ty Cen­ter for Chil­dren and Fam­i­lies, the Children’s Health Lead­er­ship Net­work will devel­op a pool of near­ly 100 health advo­cates in lead­er­ship posi­tions who are dri­ving change and forg­ing part­ner­ships with­in their com­mu­ni­ties. The program’s first class of 16 advo­cates helped shape the pol­i­cy land­scape to improve health out­comes for chil­dren.

Learn more about the Foundation’s approach to Results Count

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