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STARS program for children with special needs at SSM Health Cardinal Glennon Children’s Hospital 

 STARS: Special Needs Tracking & Awareness Response System 

The STARS program helps coordinate and coach ambulance districts, fire districts and community hospitals to:

  • Recognize the special needs of patients inside their coverage area
  • Undergo the appropriate, specialized training to care for these patients’ special medical needs

The goal is to have pertinent patient information in the hands of the medical professionals before they even arrive at the patient’s side. This way they can provide the care needed immediately and skillfully. This ultimately helps decrease anxiety and painful, unnecessary measures and in achieving better outcomes, faster.

Children who especially benefit are those with:

  • Significant developmental delay
  • Seizure disorders
  • Cardiac history
  • In-clinic mental health evaluation
  • Cerebral shunts
  • Tracheostomies
  • Autism spectrum disorder
  • Children with a DNR order
  • Any atypical disease or syndrome

How STARS works

The fire or ambulance district will appoint a STARS coordinator and determine a point of contact for families.

Then comes the job of identifying children to participate in the program. Always following best practices to ensure children’s and families’ privacy, this can include:

  • Communication with local discharging hospitals or other community service institutions
  • Familiarization with the district and/or community outreach like:
    • Sending a letter explaining STARS and how participants can benefit
    • Social media posts from the districts encouraging families to sign up

Once a child—or a “star”—is identified for the program, each patient will be given a STARS number or identifier, and a home visit is scheduled with the patient and family. This is to secure pertinent medical information and share realistic expectations about the program, like the district’s capabilities and limitations. Open communication is key!

Special advanced training and education is then provided by SSM Cardinal Glennon for the ambulance district, fire department and/or the community hospital. Pre-plans are then set to match the anticipated needs of the “star” child for those emergency or hospitalization situations.

How STARS is successful

The STARS program works best if the most current pre-plan is in the hands of the first responders and local hospital so they may reference it prior to seeing the child.

Regular contact between caregivers and first responders for updates on medical changes is imperative. When changes are made, information should be shared with all parties involved, following—of course—the rules and regulations for “flagging” an address and passing private health information from one caregiver to another.

STARS was created by experienced first responders and training is coordinated through and provided by SSM Cardinal Glennon, where experienced staff are acutely aware of the capabilities and limitations of first responders and community hospitals. Thus, making the relationship one of mutual benefit.

Implement STARS in your district

For ambulance districts, fire departments or community hospitals interested in implementing STARS in their community should contact:

Team Leader EMS Outreach - Shelby Cox
314-808-7599  |

Missouri Coordinator  -  Tricia Casey
314-422-6383  | 

Illinois Coordinator  -  Joshua Dugal
573-631-7218  |


Resources for families

Parents, teachers and other caregivers can also help promote the safest, happiest environment possible for children. Check out some resources here:

Learn more about STARS: Here they are on KSDK, Channel 5

GlennonKids Safety Program

CPR classes

Step-by-step CPR and choking instructions

Safe to Sleep information

Knights of Columbus Developmental Center

Download and print STARS brochure

Resources for health care providers

First responders, physicians, nurses and allied health professionals can benefit from and ultimately better server their patients with the following resources:

An Introduction to STARS

CME, CEU and nursing education offerings

Resources in the Community for referrals

Download and print STARS brochure

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