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October 12, 2002

Program pure poetry for Broomfield teen

From: Broomfield Enterprise, CO
Oct. 12, 2002

State public health aid making local impact

By Alisha Jeter Rhines, Enterprise Staff Writer
October 12, 2002

Aracelli Avina needed hearing aids after she began high school in Illinois three years ago.

The background noise and teachers who didn't always speak up inspired her to seek help. The hearing aids she received let her hear better, but they also whistled.

Two years ago, the 19-year-old moved with her family to Broomfield and enrolled at Broomfield High School. This spring, she got her first hearing aids that don't whistle.

"I used to wear them before. I don't remember how young I was. I used ones that looked like earphones. Then in high school, when it became overwhelming, they said I needed them again," Avina said, sitting in her family's living room, passing between English and Spanish with her mother and 5-year-old brother, Danny.

Her parents are raising Avina and her two brothers on factory workers' pay. A program at Broomfield Public Health bought the working hearing aids for both ears. It also supplies the battery packs and pays for Avina's visits to the ear doctor.

Help for Avina was part of the Health Care Program for Children with Special Needs, administered in Broomfield by three nurses in Broomfield Public Health. The program covers children from birth to age 21 and does not have a family income limit, though income limitations apply for some individual services.

It is part of the overall Maternal and Child Health Program funded by the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment. The state health department gave Broomfield $15,000 to start the HCP program here. The initial contract ran through Sept. 30. The program will continue to be funded by the state and has grown to include 12 other people besides Avina, public health nurse Kelly Miller said.

The HCP program in Broomfield is managing 13 clients for a variety of services, including cleft lip and palate, congenital heart disease, cystic fibrosis, eye conditions, hearing loss, neurological conditions, severe orthodontia cases and other complex medical problems, Miller said.

She said when people come to the program, they often have recently been diagnosed with one of those medical issues and have yet to be seen by a specialist. The HCP program can hook them up with a specialist and pay for the visit and any equipment they might need — like Avina's hearing aids.

"Which is a big deal for some families," Miller said. "Some hearing aids cost as much as $2,000."

Avina, who is also blind and carries a shunt that drains liquid away from her brain, began wearing hearing aids when she was about 8, she said. Then, it was a set of headphone-like aids that she quickly abandoned for their discomfort and bulk. Her new aids allow her to do clerical work after school in the attendance office at Broomfield Heights Middle School.

She also needs reliable transportation to that job and back to Broomfield High School, where she works with a paraeducator learning life skills such as threading a needle and safely clipping her fingernails. She's preparing to apply for access-a-Ride from the Regional Transportation District and will ask Miller to help her fill out the forms.

The public health nurses also help families navigate the Medicaid, special education, community centered board and Supplemental Security Income systems to find money for adequate health care and support, public health nurse Carol McDonald said. The HCP program can pay for such things as speech and occupational therapy, some surgeries, medical equipment and specialist care.

"The really good thing about the HCP program is if you make too much money for paid services, we serve in an advocacy role," Miller said. "Even if people don't qualify for some of those paid services, we can resource for them, ask questions, maybe find a doctor willing to donate time to evaluate their child."

The program can also help parents weed through the multitude of services that may be right for their child and to get to the right person in the service organization who can help their child.

With the help of the HCP program and trainers with the Boulder Valley School District, Avina is looking forward to graduating from high school in the spring. Then, she said, maybe she'll be an editor of some kind or a poet.

"I have considered writing poetry for life," she said. "It's a way to express myself other than writing letters or prose. (I like) the rhyme and reason part of it."

Copyright 2002, The Daily Camera and the E.W. Scripps Company. All rights reserved.