Program tracks medically-complex children, educates first responders

The STARS program creates emergency care plans for children with advanced medical needs, and then works with first responders to provide specialized training in case an emergency occurs

By Rachel Engel

ST. LOUIS — A program documenting the special medical needs of children is bridging the gap between providers’ knowledge and what they need to know for those in their coverage area.

Special Needs Tracking & Awareness Response System, or STARS, was created by the mother of a child with special needs, who worried about her medically complex daughter should something happen.

“When I would think about her, and how unique she was, it would scare me to know that she could have an emergency when I wasn’t there,” STARS Program Coordinator Tricia Casey said.

The program works with parents to create emergency care plans for children with extensive medical needs, then partners with first responders in the children’s coverage areas to educate them on what they should know and provide specialized training.

“Our motto, our hashtag, is #OneKidCounts,” Casey said. “So, that’s something we’ve always said on our team is that if you put all this work into just saving one kid, that would be worth it.”

There are currently 700 children enrolled in STARS throughout Missouri and Illinois, and Casey hopes to expand the program nationwide eventually, something many first responders believe would be beneficial in the event they need to respond to a home with a child that may require advanced medical care.

“STARS has helped us be more prepared for situations like that,” St. Louis Fire Department member Audrey Barton said.

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