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Elkhart police chief calls on Congress to renew funding he says helps families

Elkhart police chief calls on Congress to renew funding he says helps families. // WSBT 22 Photo

It's a program local lawmakers say Congress is running out of time to fund.

The Child Health Insurance Plan expired in September.

Money runs out at different times for different states. Indiana is expected to have enough money to keep CHIP operating until May, but that deadline could be sooner for Michigan.

The CHIP program provides more than just insurance for low-income kids.

Now a local supporter is speaking out from an unlikely place -- the police station.

It's the case that created a permanent memory for Elkhart Police Chief Ed Windbigler.

"We had a call of neglect and abuse. We were investigating it. We had CPS involved with it,” said Windbigler.

A case, like his badge, he keeps close to his heart.

"What caused the incident is the child couldn't say a word right," said Windbigler. "Ended up getting thrown down the steps of a second story apartment and ended up dying. And if that family would've had the help and if they would've listened, it may have changed that whole thing and that child may still be here today."

He's put his pain on paper, reaching out to local lawmakers to ask them to renew funding for one of two programs under the Child Health Insurance Program.

The Maternal, Infant, Early Childhood Home Visiting Program provides free support to families--mostly first-time parents who need parenting and coping skills.

Congress failed to renew the bi-partisan program in September.

It was then Congresswoman Jackie Walorski addressed the House about how the bill funds the Healthy Families program.

"With the help of Healthy Families, she turned those long odds into success. She called Healthy Families a miracle," said Walorski.

In a statement, Walorski says the House recently passed bills to renew both MIECHV and CHIP saying, “I'm optimistic Congress will send legislation to the president's desk to ensure Hoosier families continue to get the help and support they need to thrive."

A letter, from the national governors association dated November 29 to Congress, asked them to re-fund the program. They say that all but two states would be in jeopardy of losing CHIP within the first six months of 2018. Indiana Governor Eric Holcomb is part of that group.

Windbigler says though millions of state dollars are in limbo, the program comes down to one figure.

"This is one that maybe could've been saved," said Windbigler.

Walorski says the funding for home visits has helped 800 Hoosier families every year.

A spokesperson for the Congresswoman says Congress needs to reauthorize the CHIP legislation to ensure funds are available through next year.

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