SHU receives $60K from Parkinson’s org.

FAIRFIELD—Sacred Heart University is one of only 16 institutions of higher education that the Parkinson Voice Project (PVP) recently selected to help develop SPEAK OUT! Therapy and Research Centers across the country. The PVP awarded Sacred Heart $60,000 to increase its clinical outreach in support of the SPEAK OUT! initiative.

SHU’s speech-language pathology program manages the only college-based clinic in Connecticut chosen this year to receive the grant and help advance the PVP’s specialized, research-based speech therapy program as part of its Campaign to Reach America initiative. A nonprofit organization based in Richardson, Texas, the PVP is committed to helping people with Parkinson’s regain and retain their speech and swallowing abilities.

Staff and students at SHU’s on-campus speech clinic already have been trained in the SPEAK OUT! method. The funding will enable SHU to expand the clinic, which offers free services to individuals with Parkinson’s disease, by paying for increased service-learning opportunities for students. The grant also will accelerate promising Parkinson’s treatment studies by funding additional graduate research assistants.

“We aim to increase our presence within the community as a service-driven, graduate training program. Amazing work is done when graduate student clinicians can provide needed service to their clients while gaining valuable clinical practice and knowledge in their field of study,” said Cristina Pino, clinical assistant professor of communication disorders.

“We are honored to have been selected for this amazing opportunity. We will continue to devote our time to providing essential SPEAK OUT! services to individuals statewide who are determined to live their best life with Parkinson’s disease,” Pino said.

The new SPEAK OUT! Therapy & Research Centers across the country will specialize in offering free online therapy, eliminating barriers that prevent thousands of people with Parkinson’s from receiving speech treatment.

“This will enable patients who are homebound, don’t drive or who live in rural areas to now receive the speech therapy they need while eliminating insurance and financial challenges,” according to the PVP website.

Many individuals with Parkinson’s who develop speech disorders face barriers to treatment, including lack of information and transportation, and a limited number of service providers, which negatively affects their access to quality services.

“We want to increase our role in removing these barriers to service in Connecticut,” Pino said.

Pino will work with Ciara Leydon-Korn, professor of communication disorders, and Natasha Moran, adjunct professor of communication disorders, in overseeing SHU’s SPEAK OUT! Therapy and Research Center.

“The services are meant to be delivered via teletherapy to improve client access to the program. However, services may be provided in person at a client’s request. All services are provided at no cost to the client,” said Pino.

Samantha Elandary, PVP founder and CEO, said Sacred Heart was selected for its compassion and commitment to serving the Parkinson’s community.