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Erie County restarts specialized resource and referral service for children from birth to 21 years

Children and Youth with Special Health Care Needs (CYSHCN) program to improve care coordination for families with children in Erie County

After a decade-long hiatus, the Erie County Department of Health has reintroduced the Children and Youth with Special Health Care Needs (CYSHCN) program within the Office of Health Equity. This free resource and referral program will improve care coordination for infants, children and youth from birth to 21 years old who have a serious or chronic medical, physical, behavioral, emotional or developmental condition.

“There is no ‘one-size-fits-all’ solution for the complex issues that some children in Erie County face,” said Commissioner of Health Dr. Gale Burstein. “This program is prepared to advocate with health care providers and school districts in ways that build a network of supports around a child and their family.”

“The acronym (pronounced “shin”) can be tough to remember, but the idea behind this program is very straightforward,” Dr. Burstein explained. “We know there are children and families who benefit from assistance in accessing medical, social, educational, recreational and mental health resources. This program is a connecting force – supporting and advocating for children, youth and their families, while linking them with services that can improve their quality of life, and physical and mental health.” 

A diagnosis is not required in order to participate in the CYSHCN program. “That is an important feature of CYSHCN,” Dr. Burstein continued. Parents and caregivers may notice changes at any stage of a child’s physical and social development that could raise questions and concerns. “We have a list of eligible conditions and circumstances, but our criteria for inclusion is much more expansive,” she offered.  

CYSHCN will connect families with community resources, including:

  • Medical referrals, providers and specialists; medical supplies and equipment; medical appointment scheduling and transportation
  • Mental and behavioral health resources
  • Health insurance
  • Education resources – GED, tutoring, college planning
  • Employment resources – vocational counseling, working papers, career planning and interview skills
  • Translation and interpretation services
  • Transition to adult services (medical, education, housing, medical providers)
  • Play/support groups

People eligible to participate include parents, caregivers, friends and family members of infants, children and youth; school personnel; and, medical professionals. Youth ages 18-21 years are also able to participate on their own. Once enrolled, CYSHCN will follow up regularly with parents, caregivers or older youth, continuing to offer resources and encouragement.

To apply or learn more, visit, call (716) 858-1920 or email Anyone with questions about their child’s eligibility is encouraged to call.

Part of a statewide program and funded by the New York State Department of Health, this program is based in the Erie County Department of Health’s (ECDOH) Office of Health Equity. It complements the work of the ECDOH Division of Special Needs, which provides early intervention services to infants and children under age 3 years who have a confirmed disability or developmental delay.

If you know someone who would benefit from this program, please share this information with them.


Erie County Department of Health, Children and Youth with Special Health Care Needs:

Erie County Department of Health, Early Intervention:


Children and Youth with Special Health Care Needs - collage of children of all ages, with phone number 716-858-1920 and web site