Allentown Program for Improving Family Health Celebrates First-Year Anniversary

ACHIP helps struggling single mother adjust to parenthood

Last year at this time, Charmaine Picon’s transition to motherhood was stressful and challenging, and she wasn’t aware of any services that could help her and her infant daughter.

Today, as the Allentown Children Health Improvement Project (ACHIP) celebrates its first anniversary of helping at-risk families in downtown Allentown grow into healthy ones, Picon and two-year-old Lillyanna Brown  are closer than ever, thanks in large measure to ACHIP’s involvement.

Soon after giving birth to her curly-locked child, Picon became overwhelmed with stress, depression and guilt about living in a shelter in Allentown and parenting her baby alone. “I’ve been struggling with lots of emotional baggage, attending college and dealing with Lillyanna’s behavioral issues,” says Picon, aged 40, referring to her “highly active” child. “It’s a lot of responsibilities to balance.”

The shelter referred Picon to ACHIP as they were moving to an apartment last spring. ACHIP’s free, home-visitation service focuses on improving the health and well-being of families with children, aged birth to 5 years.

ACHIP Partnerships

Co-sponsored by LVHN’s Department of Community Health, Lehigh Valley Children’s Hospital and the Promise Neighborhoods of the Lehigh Valley, the program is funded by a three-year $1.9 million grant from the Dorothy Rider Pool Health Care Trust. Since its beginning, more than 100 families in downtown Allentown have benefitted from ACHIP’s involvement.

“Congratulations to the ACHIP team on their first year of service to mothers and babies in need in Allentown. The Pool Trust grant is an excellent example of the type of innovative, collaborative work that the Pool trustees are pleased to support,” says Edward F. Meehan, MPH, Executive Director of the Dorothy Rider Pool Health Care Trust and The Rider-Pool Foundation.

“ACHIP demonstrates how Lehigh Valley Health Network works with other community-based organizations, such as Promise Neighborhoods of the Lehigh Valley, Communities in Schools and Community Services for Children to address major health issues in the community. Working together, much can be accomplished.”

Building trust while helping families

Bilingual community health workers, behavioral health specialists and a nurse navigator visit ACHIP clients’ homes, connecting and building trust with families, assessing their needs, planning interventions and helping them access health services to improve their physical and mental health.

“As a pediatrician working with families in LVHN’s Children’s Clinic for more than 20 years, I am thrilled to have the opportunity to provide to these families the resources that will positively impact the health and well-being of their children,” says Kim Brown, MD, ACHIP’s Medical Director.

Community health worker, Jamie Santana, linked Picon with ACHIP behavioral health specialists, who are working with her on self-esteem and parenting skills, and on her two-year-old’s behavior issues, which stem partially from mild autism. Picon attends parenting classes and one-on-one and group therapy sessions, which have helped her understand and deal with her toddler’s behaviors and her own feelings of guilt. She’s grateful for the support, which she says is vital to her better relationship with her child and her improved self-esteem.

“They’re giving me guidance on dealing with my anger and depression, and working with me on measureable goals for Lillyanna and me,” she says. “We’re both making progress balancing our needs and goals, thanks to ACHIP.”

She’s on the dean’s list at college and calmer, and her daughter is more social, interested in learning and affectionate. “We’re learning how to love each other,” beams Picon.

Lehigh Valley Health Network includes eight hospital campuses – three in Allentown including the region’s only facility dedicated to orthopedic surgery, one in Bethlehem, one in East Stroudsburg, one in Hazleton and two in Pottsville, Pa.; 22 health centers caring for communities in seven counties; numerous primary and specialty care physician practices and 15 ExpressCARE locations throughout the region; pharmacy, imaging, home health services and lab services; extensive inpatient and outpatient rehabilitation services; and preferred provider services through Valley Preferred. Specialty care includes: trauma care at the region’s busiest, most-experienced trauma center treating adults and children, burn care at the regional Burn Center, kidney and pancreas transplants; perinatal/neonatal, cardiac, cancer care, orthopedics, and neurology and complex neurosurgery capabilities including national certification as a

Comprehensive Stroke Center. Lehigh Valley Children’s Hospital, the only children’s hospital in the region, provides care in 28 specialties and general pediatrics. Lehigh Valley Hospital–Cedar Crest has been recognized by U.S. News & World Report for 22 consecutive years as one of America’s Best Hospitals. Lehigh Valley Hospital–Cedar Crest, Lehigh Valley Hospital–17th Street and Lehigh Valley Hospital–Muhlenberg are national Magnet hospitals for excellence in nursing. LVHN’s Cancer Institute is a formal member of the Memorial Sloan Kettering (MSK) Cancer Alliance, a transformative initiative to improve the quality of care and outcomes for people with cancer in community health care settings, including access to key MSK clinical trials. Additional information is available at lvhn.org and by following us on facebook.com/LVHealthNetwork and twitter.com/LVHN.

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