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Home Health launches new therapy clinic

ADDISON COUNTY HOME Health & Hospice Therapist Cathy Munteanu works with patient is Janine Podraza at a new outpatient clinic the organization has established at its New Haven headquarters. The clinic is providing continuing, local rehabilitation services to patients eager to regain more mobility and speech skills following major medical events.

NEW HAVEN — Addison County Home Health & Hospice has launched new programming that enhances rehab options for recovering patients and is delivering a free weekly restaurant meal to seriously ill clients and their caregivers.

The enhanced rehabilitation options are being offered through  ACHH&H’s new Addison County Outpatient Therapy clinic, at Home Health’s headquarters at 254 Route 7 in New Haven, just north of the Middlebury town line.

“Maintaining the status quo is easy to do, and we meet a lot of needs with the status quo, but our goal — now more than ever — is emerging needs in the community,” said ACHH&H Therapy Director Jenn Quinn, who is coordinating the clinic.

The clinic’s offerings include:

  • The LSVT LOUD program, which imparts information and exercises to Parkinson’s disease patients so they can achieve normal, healthy vocal loudness in everyday life. The exercises specifically address bowing of vocal cords, the ability to physically get loud, and retrains patients to use a loud voice. The new service is being led by LOUD-certified Speech Therapist Cindy Nierenberg.
  • The LSVT BIG program, an intensive, individually customized form of therapy used to teach Parkinson’s patients and others with neurological conditions to recalibrate their movements and improve their walking and self-care. BIG-certified Occupational Therapist Patrick Giblin leads this offering.

Both of these Parkinson’s-related programs are scarce in our area and are in high demand, according to Quinn

  • Vestibular rehabilitation therapy for treatment of vertigo and dizziness, visual disturbance and balance difficulties.
  • Gait and balance training for fall prevention.
  • Motor re-education for patients with neurological deficits.
  • Muscle strengthening following injury or surgery.

The new service is staffed with one occupational therapist, one speech therapist and eight physical therapists.

Historically, ACHH&H would end its service to patients once they were no longer homebound. In other words, they had met essential health goals allowing them to become mobile enough to return to basic daily activities.

At that point, the patient has the option of transitioning to another, outside provider for additional therapy to take their recovery to the next level, in order to resume such things as hiking, jogging, yoga and other activities they had temporarily lost to a stroke, accident or serious malady. In the past, patients seeking to continue their rehab would have to say goodbye to their ACHH&H therapist and find a new professional in the county or beyond — if a spot was available.

Not any more.

“Now they can come to our clinic for outpatient services and maintain that same therapist they had in their home,” Quinn said.

This builds trust and continuity of services between patient and therapist, she noted.

Deb Wesley, CEO of ACHH&H, said the new clinic hasn’t triggered the need for new staffing — at least not yet.

“That’s one of the great things about home health — the flexibility in the schedule to make it work,” Wesley said. “As we grow, we will continue to grow our staff. For now, we’re able to juggle with out current staff.”

She stressed the clinic doesn’t intend to compete with other local health care operations, which in some cases have seen their ranks and hours dwindle during the pandemic. Wesley added some of the new clinic’s services — particularly the LOUD and BIG programs — can’t be found anywhere else in the county.

“There was a gap of being able to get that next level of care,” Wesley explained. “As the pandemic has traveled and health care providers have become fewer and fewer in other settings, we see those needs increasing. So it’s the team’s decision to step forward and meet this growing need in our community.”

Wesley and Quinn said many patients can’t afford to be placed on a waiting list.

“If the therapy is referred, you need it now,” Wesley’s said. “The longer you wait, sometimes the harder it is to come back.”

“The sooner people start the program, the better the outcome,” Quinn added.

‘FOOD FOR THE SOUL’

While the clinic’s services can be life changing, ACHH&H is taking on another program intended as a periodic, delicious pick-me-up for seriously ill folks and their companions. It’s called “Food for the Soul,” and it’s a collaboration with area restaurants that will provide a nice meal per week that will be delivered to a homebound patient and a companion.

Maureen Conrad, director of development for ACHH&H, explained a similar program called “Dinners with Love” (that provided occasional free meals to hospice patients) operated in the county, but was recently discontinued. So Home Health is picking up the offering, though with an extra few twists; the restaurants will be paid for the meals they prepare, and eligibility will go beyond hospice patients.

Wesley and Conrad said restaurants have gone through so much financial hardship during the pandemic that it didn’t seem fair to ask them to continue to provide free meals.

A generous benefactor has provided seed money for Food for the Soul, and ACHH&H will gratefully accept contributions to help sustain the program.

Plans call for Home Health staff to share meal delivery responsibilities. Three restaurants have thus far agreed to participate, and Conrad is looking to recruit more. Restaurateurs interested in participating should contact Conrad at 802-382-3258.

“It makes a big difference in someone’s day,” Wesley said of the free, delivered meals. “No only the person receiving it, but also the person delivering it.”

It should also be noted that ACHH&H continues to offer COVID-19 vaccines and booster shots at its New Haven headquarters five days a week, from 8:30 a.m. to 4 p.m. The organization has now added children ages 5-11 to the vaccination list. Walk-ins welcome.

Reporter John Flowers is at johnf@addisonindependent.com.

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