(Richardson, Texas – April 11, 2023) A Texas nonprofit clinic is collaborating with the Sacred Heart University Speech-Language Pathology Clinic in Fairfield, Connecticut to help all residents of Connecticut with Parkinson’s Disease have access to high-quality speech treatment. Ninety percent of people with Parkinson’s are at risk of losing their ability to speak, and swallowing complications are the main cause of death in this population. Parkinson’s Disease is the world’s fastest-growing neurological disorder and the second-most prevalent brain disease in the United States.
Parkinson Voice Project of Richardson, Texas, a clinic committed to helping people with Parkinson’s regain and retain their speech and swallowing, is awarding Sacred Heart’s Speech-Language Pathology Center a grant worth more than $280,000 in training, services, supplies and equipment over five years, as its state’s only SPEAK OUT!® Therapy & Research Center. SPEAK OUT! is a highly effective, research-based speech therapy protocol that can also minimize the risk of life-threatening swallowing complications, according to Samantha Elandary, founder and CEO of Parkinson Voice Project.
Through this collaboration, the Sacred Heart clinic will specialize in online treatment delivery and commits to providing SPEAK OUT! Therapy at no cost to any person in Connecticut diagnosed with Parkinson’s or a related movement disorder. 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 barriers. The university will also conduct efficacy research on SPEAK OUT! Therapy.
Sacred Heart is one of 16 universities across the country selected this year to receive this grant as part of Parkinson Voice Project’s Campaign to Reach America. “We selected the Sacred Heart Speech-Language Pathology Center because of their compassion and their commitment to serving their Parkinson’s community,” says Elandary. “These new SPEAK OUT! Therapy & Research Centers will eliminate the barriers currently preventing thousands of people with Parkinson’s from receiving speech treatment,” she says. Speech and swallowing issues in Parkinson’s are life-altering and life-threatening. This is an urgent problem, and patients and families are desperate for help, according to Elandary.
“Sacred Heart University’s mission aligns with the SPEAK OUT! Research & Therapy Center’s objective of delivering free service to underserved community members,” says Cristina Pino, a Clinical Assistant Professor and Co-Director of Clinical Education for the Graduate Speech-Language Pathology Program, in the Communications Disorders Department at Sacred Heart. Pino serves as the clinical lead for the SPEAK OUT! Therapy & Research Center.
The SPEAK OUT! Therapy & Research Grants are multi-faceted, with a mix of services and benefits, including education and training, speech therapy workbooks and materials, purchase of therapy and research supplies and equipment, public relations services, and outreach and patient educational materials provided over five years. Clinical and research faculty members will travel to Parkinson Voice Project’s headquarters for specialized instruction in SPEAK OUT! therapy and research, as well as efficient business practices and outreach. They will engage in master classes with individuals with Parkinson’s and receive hands-on training. The Texas nonprofit will also provide online training for the rest of the universities’ speech-language pathology clinical and research faculty and all of their graduate students.
Sacred Heart University joins 15 other universities, including Andrews University in Berrien Springs, Michigan; Arizona State University in Tempe, Arizona; Arkansas State University in Jonesboro, Arkansas; Eastern Washington University in Spokane, Washington; Georgia Southern University in Savannah, Georgia; Marshall University in Huntington, West Virginia; Metropolitan State University of Denver in Denver, Colorado; Northeastern University in Boston, Massachusetts; Pennsylvania State University in State College, Pennsylvania; Saint Louis University in St. Louis, Missouri; University at Buffalo in Buffalo, New York; University of Mary in Bismarck, North Dakota; University of Nebraska – Omaha in Omaha, Nebraska; University of South Florida in Tampa, Florida; and University of Utah in Salt Lake City, Utah.
Parkinson Voice Project is awarding more than $4.5 million in these collaborations. With the 16 university speech clinics and Parkinson Voice Project headquarters in Richardson, Texas, people with Parkinson’s in 17 states will now have access to SPEAK OUT! Therapy, regardless of location, transportation, insurance, or financial challenges.
“We chose today, World Parkinson’s Day, to announce our first 16 SPEAK OUT! Therapy & Research Centers,” says Elandary. These training and research grants are part of Parkinson Voice Project’s Campaign to Reach America, which raised over $11 million for this campaign this past year. The nonprofit will continue to raise money to name more Centers until all 50 states are covered.
Sparked by the Pandemic
Elandary credits the pandemic for sparking the concept of the SPEAK OUT! Therapy & Research Centers. “When we transitioned our speech therapy clinic to an online telepractice during the shutdown, we found our patients did better with that mode of therapy. Many barriers that previously prevented patients from receiving speech treatment were immediately eliminated. Patients who were homebound, lived in rural areas, or had transportation challenges could now receive treatment,” she says.
“Online therapy is easier and more convenient for this patient population that also struggles with mobility and physical challenges.” Elandary’s team observed that online therapy also made it easier for family members and friends from across the world to participate in therapy sessions by simply hopping onto a ZOOM call.
In March 2020, Elandary’s clinical team also began hosting “SPEAK OUT! Home Practice Sessions” on their website, Facebook page, and YouTube channel five days a week. More than 3,000 patients participate in these online sessions each day. With this added practice support, patients are improving and reaching their speech therapy goals faster than they did before the pandemic, she notes.
About the $20 Million Campaign to Reach America
In December 2021, Parkinson Voice Project officially launched its $20 million “Campaign to Reach America” to financially secure its headquarters in Richardson, Texas and help support 50 Therapy & Research Centers – one in every state across America. Parkinson Voice Project has raised over $11 million towards the campaign and plans to continue the campaign until all 50 states are sponsored. For more information on the Campaign to Reach America, please visit www.parkinsonvoiceproject.org/Campaign-To-Reach-America.
About SPEAK OUT!
Parkinson Voice Project’s comprehensive SPEAK OUT! Therapy Program combines interlocking components, including education for both the patient and family, individual speech therapy, a specialized workbook, weekly speech and singing group sessions, daily home practice, and re-evaluations every three-to-six months. People with Parkinson’s who adhere to the SPEAK OUT! protocol have been shown to maintain their treatment results for 12+ years and counting.
About Parkinson Voice Project
Parkinson Voice Project was established in 2005 and is dedicated to helping people with Parkinson’s regain and retain their speech and swallowing. They treat patients in their Texas clinic and train speech-language pathologists and graduate students worldwide. Their SPEAK OUT! Workbook is available in eight languages: English, French, German, Greek, Hebrew, Italian, Japanese, and Spanish. Since 2008, the organization has not charged for their therapy services. Their program is primarily funded by charitable gifts and pay-it-forward donations from grateful patients and their families and friends. Parkinson Voice Project maintains a score of 100 on CharityNavigator.org. To learn more, visit www.ParkinsonVoiceProject.org