Doernbecher Children's Hospital

Novel Interventions in Children's Healthcare (NICH)

Dr. Michael Harris, Clinical Director for OHSU Doernbecher Children's Hospital's NICH Program.
Michael Harris, Ph.D. is the director and founder of NICH. “We know that if you aren’t meeting the challenges of day-to-day life,” he says, “it really is impossible to take care of a child with a serious chronic health condition.”

OHSU’s Novel Interventions in Children’s Healthcare program supports families in caring for their child’s health condition. We are your advocate, your support, your problem-solver and your go-to resource for anything related to your child's health.

We offer families:

  • A trained professional (interventionist) to help solve the issues that get in the way of a child's health.
  • A dedicated interventionist who is available 24 hours a day, seven days a week.
  • Oregon’s first home-based and community-based program that focuses on children and teens with complex and chronic (ongoing) health conditions.

What is NICH?

NICH is a program at OHSU Doernbecher Children’s Hospital for children with a complex or chronic health condition. 

  • We serve as an advocate to help you get the best and right care for your child.
  • We serve as a resource to get your basic needs met.
  • We provide support to you and your child for managing the day-to-day challenges of a complex or chronic health condition.
  • We work in the community and come to you so we can better understand what life is like for you and your child.

Program goals

  • Improving your child’s health.
  • Improving care for your child.
  • Improving the relationship between your family and your health care team.
  • Helping you navigate a complicated health care system.

No cost to families

NICH has contracts with insurance companies to cover services for at least 12 months. Donations also help us meet the many needs that families may have.

Youths we serve

  • Youths and their families can be referred to our program by anyone. Your child does not have to be a patient at Doernbecher.
  • We serve youths ages birth to 18 years who have a complex or chronic health condition. Youths ages 18 to 21 are considered case by case.
  • We are particularly interested in serving families who are trying to manage their child's health along with other challenges.

    Medical conditions

    These are among the most common conditions youths in NICH have:

    • Type 1 diabetes
    • Seizure disorder
    • Kidney disease
    • Cancer
    • Failure to thrive
    • Cystic fibrosis
    • Chronic pain
    • Hemophilia
    • Heart condition
    • Before or after a transplant

    Common social challenges

    These are some of the social challenges for youths in NICH:

    • Trouble finding adequate housing
    • Language/culture barriers
    • Trauma issues
    • Mental health issues
    • Social isolation
    • Family conflict
    • School challenges
    • Transportation issues
    • Food insecurity
    A NICH Interventionist and a NICH patient getting a pedicure.
    Taylor Jennison (left), 17, earned a pedicure with her interventionist, Ingrid Gomez (right), by managing her diabetes. “The support that NICH has provided our family is priceless,” said Taylor’s mom, Kristene.

    What to expect

    • Once you are approved, NICH will assign you and your family to an interventionist who will work with you throughout the program.
    • The interventionist will come to you — meeting you in the hospital, at the clinic, at your child's school, in your home, and anyplace where you and your family might benefit from having an advocate.
    • Your interventionist will be available 24/7, by phone, email and video chat.
    • You will have frequent contact — perhaps daily — with your interventionist early on. After that, you can expect to be in contact with your interventionist weekly. You can contact your interventionist whenever you might need help. 
    • You can expect to be in the program for about 12 months, depending on your child’s health and your family’s needs.
    • NICH is a voluntary program. Your family can withdraw at any time.

    Our services

    • Arranging appointments and coordinating your schedule.
    • Being present for clinic appointments and hospitalizations to serve as your advocate.
    • Attending school meetings and social service meetings, as needed.
    • Helping obtain services that might be needed, such as mental health care.
    • Communicating with your child’s primary care doctor and specialty providers so everyone is working together to help your child.
    • Arranging resources that might include:
      • Healthy or specialty food your child can eat.
      • Reliable transportation to and from appointments.
      • Medications or medical equipment.
      • Interpreters if English is not your family’s main language.
    A group photo of OHSU's NICH Program staff.

    Our team

    Program Director

    Clinical Director

    Research Director

    Clinical Supervisor

    Program Manager

    Referral and Operations Coordinator

    Dissemination and Implementation Manager

    How to help the NICH program

    You can help us provide for more families and children:

    • Give money at www.ohsu.edu/nich/donate.
    • Donate new or gently used items. Many of our families need:
      • Clothing
      • Baby items (diapers, bottles, etc.)
      • Safety items (helmets, cabinet locks, car seats, etc.)
    • Donate incentive items: We use incentives such as toys and gift cards to help motivate children to follow their medical routines.
    • Give your expertise: We are always looking for people with skills in fields such as marketing, design and fundraising to help our program grow to serve more families.

    Questions about volunteering or what to donate? Email us at nichprogram@ohsu.edu.

    Dr. Michael Harris giving a NICH patient a tutorial on how to give yourself an insulin injection.
    Interventionists can teach children and their families how to better manage a health condition.

    Our excellence

    Our grants and awards include:

    • Pediatric Excellence Award, 2017, Press Ganey. The award recognizes a pediatric hospital or unit that has demonstrated extraordinary commitment to pediatric care.
    • Clinical Care Innovation (CCI) Challenge Award, 2015, the Association of American Medical Colleges. Improving Value through Clinical Transformation, Education and Science Meeting, $5,000.
    • Trillium Community Health Plan Coordinated Care Organization Transformation Grant, 2014. Pilot funding for innovative programs to help create a new health care system, $177,500.
    • CareOregon's Care Support and System Innovation (CSSI) Grant, 2011. Pilot funding to foster a culture of evidence-based practice and continuous improvement in provider organizations, $115,000.

    For families

    Enrollment: To ask about joining the NICH program, please contact Brian Tierney at 971-230-4478.

    Refer a patient

    To refer a patient and family, contact:

    Brian Tierney
    tierney@ohsu.edu
    971-230-4478

    Support NICH

    Make a donation that will go towards supporting our most vulnerable youth.

    A family regains its footing

    NICH patient Taylor Jennison smiling while getting a pedicure.

    Read how the NICH program helped Taylor Jennison (right), who has diabetes, and her family. “They do the things I can’t,” says her mom, Kristene.