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Blue Cross and Susquehanna Health Help Williamsport Youth Deal With Loss

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By: Anthony Matrisciano
July 12, 2011

More than 60 children benefit from Foundation grant to bereavement program

July 12, 2011, Williamsport, PA — Candice Walters is grateful for the specialized Children’s Bereavement Program that helped her six grandchildren after the unexpected passing of their grandfather. 

“We were all very upset about the loss of my husband.  He was a father figure to my grandchildren,” said Walters.  “It was a struggle to deal with his death while supporting my son, daughter and grandchildren.  I was so relieved that local support was available.”

In 2008, Susquehanna Health Home Care and Hospice staff identified a need for a local bereavement program specialized for children.  Adult support was available, but the closest services especially for children were one to two hours away. 

Susquehanna Health launched a pilot support group for children after its team attended a training program at Highmark’s Caring Place, a center designed for grieving children, adolescents and their families. 

A subsequent grant of $10,000 from The Blue Ribbon Foundation of Blue Cross of Northeastern Pennsylvania helped Susquehanna Health expand its Children’s Bereavement Program throughout 2010, including the addition of educational workshops attended by more than 500 health care professionals. 

The expansion, which was completed late last year, included developing activities tailored for children of all ages.  Because the way children understand loss depends upon their age, four support groups were organized: preschool, elementary, middle school and high school programs. 

“We were able to help more than 60 additional children in our community,” said Pamela Wollet, Children’s Bereavement Coordinator at Susquehanna Health.  “The grant from Blue Cross allowed us to customize our support to different age groups and open the program up to even more families.”

During 2010, the Children’s Bereavement Program saw a 77% increase in participation and was able to train seven new volunteers to facilitate the youth support groups.  Susquehanna Health has officially named the program Heartworks Children's Grief Support Groups.

“Children who lose a loved one are at greater risk for symptoms of depression, withdrawal and anxiety,” said Cynthia A. Yevich, executive director of The Blue Ribbon Foundation. “By funding the children’s bereavement program, our Foundation is helping children realize they are not alone.  They have the support they need to work through their grief in healthy ways.”

Heartworks Children’s Grief Support Groups continue to grow and welcome new families.  An Advisory Council has also been organized with 12 program partners who are charged with setting long-term goals, generating awareness and identifying resources for the program.

For more information or to enroll in this program, contact Ms. Wollet or Bereavement Liaison Cherrie Serra, RN at 570-320-7691 or 888-499-3177.

About Blue Cross of Northeastern Pennsylvania
Headquartered in Wilkes-Barre, Blue Cross of Northeastern Pennsylvania is an independent licensee of the Blue Cross and Blue Shield Association. BCNEPA offers a comprehensive portfolio of health insurance products and administrative services to nearly 550,000 individuals in 13 counties in northeastern and north central Pennsylvania. The company’s mission is to provide integrated health care services and products to improve the quality, accessibility and affordability of health care in the populations BCNEPA serves.

BCNEPA established its private, nonprofit Blue Ribbon Foundation in 2002 to invest in health education and prevention initiatives that produce measurable health improvements and help manage long-term health costs for the residents of northeastern and north central Pennsylvania.

Media Contact:
Anthony Matrisciano