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.
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.