The College of Health Sciences & Professions at the University of North Georgia (UNG) is partnering with Chelsey Park Health & Rehabilitation, a healthcare site with a focus on neurological rehabilitation patients, in a relationship that will provide hands-on experience for students and skilled interns and workers for the facility.
Chelsey Park is the first facility of its kind in Georgia, and only the fourth in the nation, to offer neurological care using a cutting-edge technological system based in a residential environment, rather than a chronic-care facility such as a hospital. Lynne King, vice president of community relations and fundraising for Community Health Foundation — a member organization that is helping to raise funds in support of the center — said they are excited about having UNG students as interns and hiring UNG graduates as nurses and certified nursing assistants.
"The opportunity for our college to partner with Chelsey Park is invaluable," said Dr. Teresa Conner-Kerr, dean of UNG's College of Health Sciences & Professions. "This partnership will be an asset to our community and students in so many ways, and will likely involve students from each department: nursing, physical therapy, and clinical mental health counseling. This will give them critical experience in a great location mere minutes from the Dahlonega Campus. We look forward to seeing the benefits for both institutions take effect when Chelsey Park opens its doors."
The technology used in the facility is customizable to each patient and will grant patients greater independence in caring for themselves. For example, patients who have little to no ability to move themselves will be able to control room features — such as blinds, doors and electronics — by moving their eyes.
"This will be an environment created specifically to feel like home while giving patients the ability to be in greater control of their own surroundings," said Steve King, director of community relations and fundraising for Community Health Foundation.
Trina Pellegrino, a Dahlonega resident who lost a loved one to ALS, commonly called Lou Gehrig's Disease, was glad to hear about the facility. ALS is a neurodegenerative disease that causes progressive muscle weakness and paralysis, and often death as victims lose the ability to breathe.
"My ex-husband's mother, Mary Chester, was diagnosed with ALS in 2010 and passed away in 2012. She had been such an active person, and to see her deteriorate was heartbreaking," she said. "Knowing that Chelsey Park will actually have a place for ALS patients is wonderful, because when we were trying to find a place for Mary there was nowhere to go. As soon as we told a facility she had ALS, they would say they were not equipped."
King also said the facility will offer a unique experience for UNG students, as the type of care they will witness and administer will be highly specialized and different from other, more traditional settings.
"We also hope there may be ongoing educational training opportunities for Chelsey Park staff at UNG," King said.
Many faculty members took the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge during the College of
Health Sciences & Professions' event supporting Chelsey Park.
The facility, currently under construction off Ga. 60 in Dahlonega, won't open until May 2015, but the college already has teamed with Chelsey Park to support the fight against ALS. Earlier this semester, the College of Health Sciences & Professions held an ALS Ice Bucket Challenge featuring students, faculty, staff and community members like Pellegrino with all proceeds going to Chelsey Park. The college also made a direct donation of $1,000 to Chelsey Park.
"We wanted to do more than raise awareness with this event," Conner-Kerr said. "Chelsey Park will be making a very profound impact in the lives of neurological rehabilitation patients and their families, as well as in the lives of our students. We are proud to support them in this mission."
Most ALS Ice Bucket Challenges donate money toward researching the disease, but the college's donation and event were unique in that all proceeds are going to patient care and treatment, which is one reason Pellegrino wanted to participate.
"ALS is one of the most debilitating diseases I've ever come into contact with," she said. "We are all so glad Chelsey Park will offer these services and will be in Dahlonega."
For more information about Chelsey Park, please visit: http://www.chelseyparkhealth.org/. The facility's grand opening is set for May 23 and the UNG community is invited to attend.