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Teri Lamb and Ruth Anne EarhartThe agency promoting family health and well-being has a new office at Zion Crossroads on Route 250.

The public is invited to a ribbon-cutting and open house from 4-7 p.m. on Aug. 23.

For years, workers for the Jefferson Area Children’s Health Improvement Program (CHIP) that covers Fluvanna operated out of a storefront in the Village of Palmyra.

But when an opportunity came to merge the Fluvanna and Louisa offices, they took it, said Terri Lamb, a registered nurse.

Prior to the June 12 move, each satellite office had just two staff members.

“With more CHIP staff working together I have already noticed we can share tips about managing our work load so we can meet the professional standards that our organization commands,” Lamb said. “Additionally, when our families are facing very stressful issues (like intimate partner violence, incarceration, substance use, mental health challenges) or have a very unique need (like a weighted blanket for a child with sensory issues or a supportive feeding chair for a child with low muscle tone) it can be very stressful for staff members to know where to start. By having more CHIP staff in one space we have been able to identify resources more readily,  meet the families’ priorities more efficiently, which in turn helps us feel more successful in our work.” Jefferson Area CHIP’s mission statement is to “partner with families to create a nurturing home environment and to promote the health and well-being of children in our community.”

Nurses and family support workers trained in the “Parents as Teachers” curriculum make home visits where they engage the whole family in providing what’s best for the children.

According to the CHIP website: “Through home visits, CHIP works with the parent and child in their own environment, eliminating the need to find transportation or child care to participate. CHIP helps families adapt the environment to maximize their child’s healthy development. Home visits allow the entire family to participate, being on the same page on how to take care of its youngest members.”

The main office is in Charlottesville.

Lamb said combining offices helps both teams – and their supervisors. “Supervisors will now have the ability to be present for all of us on a more frequent basis,” Lamb said.
Carey Bailey, a registered nurse, is Lamb’s supervisor. Bailey said the move benefits both the CHIP staff and clients.

The new office “will allow better peer and supervisory support for CHIP staff, and it will increase our ability to share our resources to meet client needs (like teaching materials, vehicles, and even tips and ideas),” Bailey said. “So it’s good for CHIP staff, because they won’t feel so much like they are operating solo in a small office and it is good for clients because with a little more support and sharing staff can do a better job and serve more families.”

Lamb pointed out that by merging, CHIP saves on expensive teaching tools.

“The CHIP nursing staff sees a variety of health issues and needs and it is important to share knowledge, experiences and potential interventions with another nurse,” she said. “We use hands-on teaching materials to our visits more engaging. For example, we have models of food and pretend plates to help us talk about nutrition, or for dental education we use a large model of teeth and large toothbrush, and we have found that detailed pictures of a fetus developing in the womb can motivate health and regular prenatal care during pregnancy. These supplies are expensive, so by pooling these tools we will be able to continue to be able to offer health education in a way that is fun and interesting for children and parents in the future.”

They won’t just be sharing equipment and teaching tools, but also experience, Lamb said.

“CHIP nurses come from different fields of nursing and we each have expertise that can benefit each other, the families we serve, and thus help us be a healthier community,” Lamb said. “I am a certified asthma educator so by passing on my knowledge about asthma with the Louisa nurse, [we] can benefit even more families even if I don’t directly work with a particular family.”

Bailey said the quality and reliability of care won’t change.

“The Fluvanna team remains committed to understanding the unique character and needs of Fluvanna County, and will continue to be the best resource they can be for Fluvanna County,” Bailey said. “And the Louisa team feels likewise about their role and their focus in Louisa County.”