Hartford Healthcare Awarded 2021 ‘Speak Out!’ Crowd Grant

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by Yedida Y Bogachkov PhD |

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Hartford Healthcare has been awarded a Parkinson Voice Project 2021 SPEAK OUT! & LOUD Crowd grant — which the Connecticut healthcare network will use to expand its speech therapy programs.

Each clinic awarded one of the more than 200 global SPEAK OUT! & LOUD Crowd grants receives therapy supplies and free training for its teams of speech-language pathologists and graduate students. Hartford Healthcare will apply those benefits across eight of its sites, all offering speech programs for Parkinson’s disease patients, the network said in a press release.

“Up to 90 percent of people with Parkinson’s are at high risk of losing their ability to speak, and swallowing complications account for 70 percent of the mortality rate in this patient population,” said Samantha Elandary, the founder and CEO of Parkinson Voice Project, which presented the grants.

“Our vision at Parkinson Voice Project is to make our highly effective speech therapy program accessible to people with Parkinson’s worldwide,” Elandary said.

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Many Parkinson’s patients experience voice impairments and have problems with their ability to articulate speech, which can have serious implications for their quality of life.

The SPEAK OUT! & LOUD Crowd grant program follows the teachings of Daniel R. Boone, PhD, a renowned speech-language pathologist who suggested back in the 1950s that those with Parkinson’s could improve their communicative abilities by “speaking with intent.”

The program works by combining individual and group therapy to convert speech from an automatic function to an intentional one. SPEAK OUT! is an individual speech therapy program that combines speech, voice, and cognitive exercises. It involves 12 sessions, each 45 minutes in length, given over four weeks, or about one month.

Following a six-week follow-up, the SPEAK OUT! graduates join a LOUD Crowd group communication class. The LOUD Crowd portion of the program is designed to provide education and accountability through weekly group sessions as individuals with Parkinson’s continue their “speaking with intent” journey.

Studies have shown that the SPEAK OUT! voice therapy program can allow patients to regain their ability to communicate. The program has been implemented across the U.S. and in many other countries.

“We are very excited to, once again, have been named a recipient of the Parkinson Voice Project Grant,” said Sylvia Fisher, speech pathology program director at Hartford Healthcare Rehabilitation Network.

“This allows us to continue providing specialized training in the evaluation and treatment of swallowing, speech and voice disorders related to Parkinson’s disease,” she said.

Hartford HealthCare is implementing the Parkinson Voice Project program in its Cheshire, Meriden, Mystic, Norwich, Torrington, Vernon, West Hartford, and Willimantic locations. These clinics offer both virtual and in-person individualized SPEAKOUT! treatment sessions and LOUD Crowd communication group classes.

With this grant, Hartford also is expanding its services into its homecare division, bringing speech therapy to its patients who are homebound, Fisher said.

Losing the ability to speak has pronounced and far-ranging effects on the quality of life of Parkinson’s patients, research has shown. It makes it challenging for them to talk with family and friends, carry on phone conversations, and even order food in restaurants.

In addition to the actual therapy they receive as part of the program, the SPEAK OUT! & LOUD Crowd weekly sessions allow participants to benefit from the support and encouragement of fellow patients in navigating life with Parkinson’s.

“We look forward to continue helping individuals with Parkinson’s disease regain their voices so that they will have the confidence and satisfaction of participating in activities that they may have thought no longer possible,” Fisher said.