Northeastern University Speech-Language Hearing Center to remove barriers to Parkinson’s speech therapy in Massachusetts

This article was adapted from the Parkinson Voice Project.

A Texas nonprofit clinic is collaborating with the Northeastern University Speech-Language and Hearing Center to help all residents of Massachusetts 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, has awarded Northeastern’s Speech-Language and Hearing 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.

04/29/22 – BOSTON, MA – Northeastern speech language pathology graduate students Olivia Fahey and Sabrina Bender go through speech exercises with their patient Rob Jacobson, who has Parkinson’s Disease, in the Forsyth Building on Friday, April 29, 2022. Photo by Alyssa Stone/Northeastern University

>> Read More: SPEAK OUT! program helps Parkinson’s patients put their best voices forward

Through this collaboration, the Northeastern center will specialize in online treatment delivery and commits to providing SPEAK OUT! Therapy at no cost to any person in Massachusetts diagnosed with Parkinson’s or a related movement disorder. This will enable patients who are homebound, don’t drive, or 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.

Northeastern 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 Northeastern University Speech-Language and Hearing 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.

“There is nothing I would like more than to enroll more patients each semester and ‘wave goodbye’ to our waitlist. I see so many people who desperately need our services and cannot pay or travel to access them,” says Elizabeth Martin, an Assistant Clinical Professor in Northeastern’s Department of Communication Sciences and Disorders, who serves as the clinical lead for the Massachusetts 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.

Samantha Elandary, Founder and CEO of Parkinson Voice Project (Center, front) with a team of staff and Parkinson Voice Advocate volunteers celebrate awards to 16 universities to form SPEAK OUT! Therapy & Research Centers across America.