BayCare and Tampa Bay Family Champion for Children’s Health Care on Capitol Hill

June 18, 2024
A young girl, two women and a man stand behind a boy in a stroller. They are in front of the U.S. Capitol building.
Tali, Alisha and Chase Harper with Alisha's parents, LuAnn and Fred Hieber, in front of the U.S. Capitol June 13, 2024.


St. Joseph’s Children’s Hospital patient Chase Harper, 7, and his family joined more than 40 other pediatric patients from across the nation on Capitol Hill to advocate for legislation that ensures access to high-quality pediatric medical and mental health care.

Chase was diagnosed with multiple heart defects in utero and was born with Down syndrome. He spent the first two weeks of his life in the neonatal intensive care unit, and underwent heart surgery at just 8 months old. When he was 4 years old, he was diagnosed with Pre-B acute lymphoblastic leukemia. His treatment included 30 months of chemotherapy with multiple months-long hospital stays during that time.

St. Joseph's Children's Hospital has been instrumental in his diagnosis, treatment and continuous care.

The Harper family traveled to Washington from June 12-14, as part of the Children’s Hospital Association’s annual Family Advocacy Days, along with BayCare Government Relations Director Jason Rodriguez, BayCare Government Relations Manager John Learn, St. Joseph’s Children’s Hospital President Sarah Naumowich and BayCare System Communications Strategist Amy Gall.

A group of men and women wearing business attire stand in front of a child in a stroller.
BayCare Government Relations Director Jason Rodriguez, Congressman Darren Soto, Alisha Harper, Tali Harper, BayCare System Strategist Amy Gall, BayCare Government Relations Manager John Learn and Chase Harper meet in the U.S. Capitol June 14, 2024.

The trip included meetings with U.S. Representatives Gus Bilirakis, Vern Buchanan, Kathy Castor, Laurel Lee and Darren Soto, and U.S. Senator Marco Rubio. Chase also had the chance to spend time with dozens of children from hospitals throughout the country during a celebratory dinner to honor the Family Advocacy Day participants.

“Chase has been a fighter since he was born, and I know he would not be here today if we didn’t have access to the specialized care he receives from St. Joseph’s Children’s Hospital,” said his mother, Alisha Harper.

According to Alisha, Chase’s cancer diagnosis and lengthy treatment affected their entire family, but the toll it took on her 9-year-old daughter Tali’s mental health was something she didn’t anticipate. Fortunately, they participated in an integrated behavioral health program at St. Joseph’s Children’s Hospital that provides counseling to pediatric oncology patients and their families. 

The services come in the form of two licensed clinical social workers that are available for patients and families in the care setting at the hospital, free of charge. While the clinicians worked to get Chase better, his mom and sister had access to therapy onsite so they could appropriately cope with the situation.

Two mean and a woman sitting in an office speaking to each other.
Congressman Gus Bilirakis and his Senior Policy Advisor Chris Jones speak with Alisha Harper during a meeting on Capitol Hill June 13, 2024.

During meetings on Capitol Hill, BayCare representatives and the Harper family asked Congress to be champions for legislation that would safeguard care for children with complex medical conditions and to expand mental health services for kids and teenagers. 

“We are grateful for the opportunity to meet with our congressional delegation and Senator Rubio to advocate for greater and earlier access to behavioral health services for kids,” said BayCare Government Relations Director Jason Rodriguez. “The Harper family has endured so much, and their bravery in sharing their story will help get critical legislation such as the Helping Kids Cope Act and the Early Minds Act across the finish line.”

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