Thursday, July 1, 2010

Remembering Family Voices Founder, Polly Arango

Family Voices Indiana families and friends grieve the unexpected passing of Polly Arango. Many of us know and have benefitted from the life work of Polly. I had the privilege of being introduced to Polly while living in Colorado when my children were young. This was a very important introduction for she was a “bright spot” in my journey. Polly being the change agent that she was, brought many of us along to be part of something bigger than you and I. She has made a difference in the lives of so many, we celebrate her life and will miss her dearly. We celebrate her life’s work which continues to live on. One person can make a difference, Polly showed us this. Below is the full text of the Obituary from the Albuquerque Journal
Mary Jo Paladino

ARANGO -- Polly (Mary Elizabeth Egan) Arango, a nationally known advocate for children, died in a freak one car accident in Alamosa, CO on Saturday, June 26, 2010. A resident of Algodones, NM since 1977, Polly is survived by her husband John; her four children-Carlos Arango, Francesca Wilson, Maria Arango and Nicolas Arango; her seven grandchildren-Sloan Wilson, Conor Arango, Gabbby Arango, Kellen Wilson, Grace Arango, Lenor Arango and Isabel Arango; and seven of her eight brothers and sisters-Richard Egan, Kevin Egan, Martha Egan, Kathryn Stout, Patrick Egan, Michael Egan and Thomas Egan. Polly was born in Evanston, IL, the daughter of Margaret Hubsch Egan and Charles N. Egan. She grew up near Green Bay, WI and was a shareholder and intense fan of the Packers. She attended Northwestern University but transferred to UNM so she could ski and play golf on the same day. She graduated from UNM in 1964. In 1967, she married John in Albuquerque. While John served as Peace Corps Director in Panama and Ecuador, Polly began her career as an advocate, working with her friend, Miki Stebbing, to place Ecuadorian orphans with families in the United States and Europe Polly continued her adoption and foster care work when she returned to the United States in 1973. When it was discovered that her adopted son, Nicolas, had a severe developmental disability, she shifted her emphasis to securing a full education and access to health care for children with chronic health conditions, and to organizing the families of these children. With Sallie VanCuren, Loretta Armenta and others, she co-founded Parents Reaching Out (PRO) and remained active in this organization until her death. When the Clinton Health Reform effort failed to take account of the needs of children with disabilities, Polly, Julie Beckett, Josie Wohl, and a group of advocates from around the country founded Family Voices to improve access and quality of health care for children with special needs. She served as the first Executive Director of Family Voices, which now has active chapters in every state. She worked closely with many officials in the federal Health and Human Services Department. In particular, Drs. Vince Hutchins and Merle McPherson were instrumental in such initiatives as Family-Centered Care, Parent-Professional Partnerships, and the Medical Home. Throughout the 70's, 80's, and 90's, Polly worked closed with Patty Jennings to secure, with the help of Tim Jennings and other legislators, major changes in programs for children with developmental disabilities in New Mexico. Among them were lowering the school age for children with disabilities; creating the Medically Fragile Children's Program and the New Mexico High Risk Insurance Pool; and expanding coverage and services for children in various Medicaid Waiver programs. In the past decade, Polly added a new emphasis on children in general, and particularly on children's health. She became associated with the Institute for Healthcare Improvement where she served on the staff of the Triple Aim Program, intended to expand the role of the patient, improve the quality of care, and lower health care costs. She also became active on the board of New Mexico Voices for Children. In all her work, Polly advocated for a significant role for parents in designing and delivering services for children, and for reasonableness and transparency in government. Polly was a long time member of the board of El Pueblo Health Services in Bernalillo. Her family thanks Dr. Alan Firestone for the excellent care he provided to Polly and for his commitment to the health of New Mexicans. Polly would also have wanted to thank Drs. Lance Chilton and Javier Aceves for support in all her activities. Polly was particularly excited by the passage of the Health Care Reform bill earlier this year, and thanked Senator Bingaman for his key role in the passage of the bill, and Senator Udall for his support of rural health programs. Polly would have also wanted to thank Elizabeth Griego for her unceasing attention to Nicolas' needs, and the many therapists and physicians, health care workers, teachers, and others who have, and will continue, to support and assist him. Polly had many friends. Among the joys in her life were the monthly meetings of the "Movie Group" to talk politics and watch a movie. Earlier, with another group of friends, she co-authored two New Mexico guidebooks, both published by the UNM Press. She was the author of many articles and book chapters, and spoke frequently at meetings around the country. A memorial service will be announced shortly. The family asks that, in lieu of flowers, donations be made to Family Voices, New Mexico Voices for Children or PRO.

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