OT and Primary Care for Individuals With Disabilities

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I always get excited to hear about health care settings providing services that are innovative, all-inclusive, and comprehensive. The Elmwood Health Center, located in Buffalo, NY, is a great example of what health care can be at its best. Elmwood Health Center is a great example of what occupational therapy's role can look like in comprehensive health care for people with intellectual and physical disabilities.

Elmwood Health Center is committed to providing optimal, compassionate, patient-centered health care to those throughout the Western New York community in an open and accessible manner whereby the unique needs of the patient as well as their family are central to the delivery of services to everyone. The Center offers primary and specialty care to over 5,000 patients.

Approximately 50 percent of patients at the Elmwood Health Center have an intellectual or developmental disability. Founded as an affiliate of People Inc., a human services agency providing services to individuals with disabilities throughout the region, the Elmwood Health Center provides care to individuals with and without disabilities, a truly inclusive and comprehensive health care environment. The Center provides primary care, rehabilitation, and counseling in one location. The rehabilitation department, which includes Occupational, Physical, and Speech Therapies, as well as audiology and nutrition services, offers short- or long-term restorative treatment on-site.

What Does OT Look Like at the Elmwood Health Center?

Approximately 60-70 percent of patients in the rehabilitation department have an intellectual or developmental disability. The Center addresses mainly two types of therapy: addressing long-term disability or restorative approaches. Patients with cerebral palsy, the most common diagnosis in the rehabilitation department, are evaluated to develop customized goals for each individual. Depending on the verbal abilities of the patient, rehabilitation staff may request assistance in developing a treatment plan from the individual’s family or staff.

Treatment is adjusted to the level of physical, cognitive or emotional ability of each individual. For example, the occupational therapist may include auditory and tactile cues to facilitate a positive therapeutic process for specific patients. Staff provides the right treatment for every individual in an effort to avoid frustration, which can impact motivation negatively.

Mobility Is Paramount

In addition, the rehabilitation department hosts a wheelchair clinic, providing over 200 assessments per year. This clinic has expanded from serving existing internal patients to becoming one of the only clinics in Western New York that provides the required assessments to all patients with any diagnosis, regardless of age. Patients at the clinic have a range of diagnoses, including: cerebral palsy, traumatic brain injury, spinal cord injuries, Multiple Sclerosis, Muscular Dystrophy, as well as various other orthopedic and neurological diagnoses. Assessments include evaluations for manual wheelchairs, power wheelchairs, power scooters, and other durable medical equipment for daily living needs.

Advocating for Comprehensive Care

Patient advocacy seems a top priority at the Elmwood Health Center. Individuals with developmental or intellectual disabilities have a variety of specialty health care needs and the Center provides these services in one location with competent and compassionate staff to deliver quality care. This type of health care is invaluable to patients who statistically have limited access to appropriate health care services (see more here).

Access to quality, comprehensive care for individuals with disabilities continues to be a huge need throughout the nation. For more information on this topic, please see  here. Furthermore, if you are looking for other examples of quality and effective programs similar to the Elmwood Health Center, take a look at Lee Specialty Clinic in Louisville, Kentucky or the Center for Women with Disabilities in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. 

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