CHIP Efforts More Important Than Ever to Roanoke Community

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CHIP logoThe Child Health Investment Partnership – better known as CHIP of Roanoke Valley – is an early childhood home visiting program that has been a fixture in the valley for decades. CHIP pairs low-income children, from ages birth to kindergarten-entry, with a Community Health Nurse and Family Case Manager for health care coordination.

The non-profit provides help in accessing needed medical services, assistance with the management of chronic conditions, and preventive services like fluoride dental varnish. Developmental education, kindergarten preparation, regular child assessment and monitoring are also part of the mix. When necessary the community health nurses will send children to doctors in the area that provide services and medicine free of charge.

All of this costs money of course, and while CHIP receives funds from a variety of sources, including local governments, fundraisers help fill the coffers as well. On Thursday May 9th there was a Tribute to Mothers luncheon at the Patrick Henry Hotel  and on May 17 there will be the annual “Tug for Tots,” where sponsored teams will try their hand at tug-of-war.

CHIP of Roanoke Valley CEO Robin Haldiman has been on the job for 16 years. She has worn other hats as well, including stints as a Public Health Ambassador to Zambia and Malawi in Africa, with the Virginia Tech Dept. of Population Sciences. CHIP tracks a number of metrics in the young children nurses visit with, “making sure they are on target developmentally,” according to Haldiman. “We’re assessing their development every six months.”

CHIP nurses keep an eye on youngsters with asthma – more than 100 on their watch list. “We get many, many referrals for children with asthma,” says Haldiman, noting that there aren’t any other programs like CHIP in the valley. It’s the only program that coordinates health care issues for preschool children; it also provides case management for pregnant mothers. “It’s really very health focused.” Moving families towards self-sufficiently by linking them to other resources in the valley is another goal.

There are more families now that have fallen in to poverty than 10-15 years ago, and more cases where English is not spoken as the first language. Those conditions make the challenge for CHIP a bit more formidable. “We’re seeing a lot more crisis-type issues, like substance abuse, families who are under stress all the time,” said Haldiman. That makes it more of a challenge in reaching the children who need help.

In the past fiscal year CHIP of Roanoke Valley made more than 6000 home visits, seeing more than 1000 children from 700-plus families. Nurses are “like little worker bees,” said Haldiman, often trying to teach parenting skills as they tend to the young children. (Parents with health care issues are often referred to organizations like the Bradley Free Clinic and New Horizons.)

“We’re a lifeline for families,” said Haldiman of CHIP, which was started in 1988 and has been a model for other non-profits around the state. Clients need to be eligible for Medicaid in order to qualify. CHIP likes to be able to work with a child for a minimum of two years. Localities in the valley plus Botetourt and Craig counties are also in the service area.

The main office on 3rd Street in Roanoke is augmented by another location in Salem.  With more than 30% of the children in Roanoke City living below the poverty line (“stunning” said Haldiman) there is no shortage of clients. She feels progress is being made: “that’s why I’ve been doing it for 16 years. I meet parents and they’re so grateful [for the help]. It’s very fulfilling work.”

There is also some funding from Medicaid but the “vast majority” of CHIP’s annual 1.8 million dollar budget is supported by the general public. That’s where events like the Tribute to Mother’s Luncheon, Tug for Tots (Salem High School’s Spartan Field at noon on Friday, May 17) and Breakfast with Santa help make a difference. It costs almost $1500 for a year of regular home visits to see a child, Haldiman points out.

(See chiprv.org for more details on CHIP of Roanoke Valley and upcoming events or call 857-6993)

by Gene Marrano