Press Release

July 11, 2016
Cardin, Mikulski Announce Federal Funding to Connect Children in Rural Areas with Specialized Medical Services

BALTIMORE – U.S. Senators Ben Cardin and Barbara A. Mikulski (both D-Md.) today announced $300,000 in funding from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) to the Kennedy Krieger Institute’s (KKI) KKI-NECT (Network for Early Childhood Telehealth) Program.  KKI-NECT connects children in rural areas of three Maryland counties with screenings and specialty care for social, emotional and behavioral care through the use of telemedicine.


“Your zip code should not dictate the quality of healthcare available to your loved ones. Far too many people in Maryland and in rural communities across the country are unable to access the care they need and deserve because of where they live in relation to the location of healthcare specialists,” said Senator Cardin, a member of the Senate Committee on Finance Health Care Subcommittee. “These federal funds will help knock down the boundaries that would, in some cases, prevent young Marylanders from receiving the tools and services they’ll need to succeed later in life. I will continue to work to make sure that every American — and specifically every child — can fully enjoy access to the best healthcare system in the world.”


“This federal funding will save money, save time and save lives,” said Senator Mikulski, Vice Chairwoman of the Senate Appropriations Committee which funds HHS. “Through innovative rural telehealth programs, we can make healthcare more affordable and more accessible in our communities. Now children and families from rural parts of Western Maryland and the Lower Shore will be able to receive specialty treatment from doctors without delay and without facing long commutes. I will continue to fight for federal funding that promotes innovations that create more affordable access to healthcare.”


The grant will be administered through Baltimore’s Kennedy Krieger Institute.  KKI-NECT will partner with children’s local primary care provider and or a School Based Health Center Provider. Kennedy Krieger’s Baltimore headquarters will service children on the Eastern Shore and in Western Maryland through satellite sites located in Dorchester, Worcester and Garrett counties. In Garrett and Worcester counties, members will be primary care providers within regional hospital networks. In Dorchester County, network members will be nurse practitioner and physician’s assistants at School Based Heal Centers.


“We are grateful for this opportunity and excited about the ability for tele-education, consultation and evaluation for developmental and behavioral disorders to allow us to serve children in the most rural parts of our state,” said Mary Leppert, director of the Center for Development and Learning at Kennedy Krieger Institute, and the grant’s principal investigator. “The establishment of a telehealth network learning collaborative creates a tremendous opportunity to expand service to more children, ensuring they have the same opportunities as their peers in less remote areas. Due to a shortage of specialists who conduct diagnostic evaluation in rural areas, this initiative will increase the capacity of providers to offer services locally while simultaneously bridging the disconnect between primary care physicians and school-based systems.”


The grant will be administered through the Kennedy Krieger Institute.  Kennedy Krieger Institute is an internationally recognized institution dedicated to improving the lives of children and young adults with pediatric developmental disabilities and disorders of the brain, spinal cord and musculoskeletal system, through patient care, special education, research, and professional training. KKI-NECT will seek to address a shortage of specialists who conduct diagnostic evaluations in rural areas. The use of telemedicine will reduce the distances families must travel to procure services for their children, thereby increasing the number of children receiving services and overall educational outcomes.  


In February, Senator Cardin introduced the Creating Opportunities Now for Necessary and Effective Care Technologies (CONNECT) for Health Act, bipartisan legislation that would expand telehealth services through Medicare, improve care outcomes, make it easier for patients to connect with their health care providers, and help cut costs for patients and providers.