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CHKD Collaborates with CATS To Refurbish Adaptive Devices for Children

Elizabeth Earley: Elizabeth.Earley@CHKD.org or (757) 668-9049
2020-10-19

NORFOLK, Va. –  Whether it’s a device that helps children communicate with friends, or a stroller that makes it easier to play with family on the beach, adaptive devices help children with disabilities live life to the fullest.

CHKD announced today a new collaboration with Children’s Assistive Technology Service, an organization that refurbishes adaptive devices and other medical equipment for children with disabilities. Sometimes the child’s family doesn’t have insurance, or, more commonly, the insurance companies don’t consider the device medically necessary. Some can cost thousands of dollars, so CATS cleans and refurbishes gently used devices and either gives or loans them to children for free.

CHKD has supported the organization since it started operating in Hampton Roads in 2016. The hospital system recently entered an agreement with the organization to create a partnership in which CHKD picks up equipment for CATS and provides space in CHKD’s adaptive seating clinic for the devices to be cleaned and refurbished. 

Beth Beach, an occupational therapist at CHKD, helped start the CATS operation in Hampton Roads. Roanoke and Richmond also have CATS programs. “Technology has come such a long way in designing equipment that can help children with disabilities do so many more activities, but they can be expensive,” said Beach, who has been an occupational therapist for more than 30 years.

For instance, Macie Leiphart, a 7-year-old Virginia Beach girl with cerebral palsy, has most of her medical equipment, such as a wheelchair, covered by insurance. But when her family filed for insurance to cover a special device that helps her stand up, the company said it wasn’t medically necessary. The $3,000 cost was steep, especially since she can outgrow the device fairly quickly.

CATS was able to provide a device when she 3, and another one last year when she outgrew the first one. She can stand at the counter to do arts and crafts, dye Easter eggs, and help her mom cook. “It really expanded the different activities she can do,” said her mother, Laura Leiphart. “She also uses it at school, so she can stand up in class like the other kids.”

Chesapeake 5-year-old Christian Farley also had his horizons expanded by CATS.  Christian has cerebral palsy and epilepsy and is also blind. He loves the water, so his family applied for a beach stroller through CATS so he could go to the beach. “I’ve lived in Chesapeake my whole life, so I grew up going to the beach,” says his mother, Jessica Farley. “We really wanted to make memories like that for Christian, too, since the water is his absolute favorite thing in the world.”

Macie and Christian are just a few in a growing number of local children who have been helped by the organization. In 2019, 452 items were provided to 432 children throughout Hampton Roads.

More information about the program can be found at the CATS website.

 Macie Leiphart   Christian Farley in Beach Chair

Left: Macie Leiphart, 7, enjoys a higher view in the family kitchen in Virginia Beach, thanks to an adaptive device that helps her stand. 

Right: Five-year-old Christian Farley of Chesapeake enjoys beach time with his family in an adaptive beach stroller he received from CATS.

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CHKD is the only freestanding children’s hospital in Virginia and serves the medical and surgical needs of children throughout greater Hampton Roads, the Eastern Shore of Virginia, and northeastern North Carolina. The not-for-profit CHKD Health System operates primary care pediatric practices, surgical practices, multi-service health centers, urgent care centers, and satellite offices throughout its service region. In 2019, CHKD broke ground on a 60-bed, 14-story mental health hospital and outpatient center on its campus to address the mental health crisis facing our youth. The new tower being built on CHKD’s campus in Norfolk is scheduled to open in 2022. Learn more at CHKD.org.

Children’s Assistive Technology Service (CATS) provides for the re-use of pediatric rehabilitation equipment and assistive technology devices in Virginia.  CATS serves as a no-cost resource for children with disabilities who need adaptive equipment and whose families have limited resources.