‘Milestone’ grant funds children’s rehab center

‘Milestone’ grant funds children’s rehab center

Foundation celebrates legacy by supporting new Newark facility

Healthcare Foundation of New Jersey is celebrating a funding milestone with a $500,000 grant to Children’s Specialized Hospital.

The grant will enable the pediatric rehabilitation network to open a new center on the campus of Newark Beth Israel Medical Center.

The Healthcare Foundation this year exceeded $100 million in grants since its founding in 1996 with the sale of Newark Beth Israel to the Saint Barnabas Health Care System.

“To celebrate that milestone we are awarding this special $500,000 grant to Children’s Specialized Hospital,” said Marsha Atkind, the foundation’s executive director.

The hospital treats children with neurological deficits ranging from mild to severe, autism, attention deficit issues, and spinal cord and traumatic brain injuries, as well as children born with HIV/AIDS.

Its services in Newark will include diagnosis, ambulatory care, and a wide range of occupational, physical, and speech therapies.

“This brings together almost everything the Healthcare Foundation cares about,” said Atkind. “It is going to serve some of the most vulnerable people in our communities because they are children, because they have in some cases very serious problems, and because some problems may not be as serious medically but are still serious to those families and those children.”

Beth Levithan, the foundation’s first vice chair, presented the grant to Philip Salerno, president and chief development officer for Children’s Specialized Hospital Foundation, at its Humanism in Healthcare Awards event July 23 at the Hamilton Park Hotel in Florham Park (see sidebar).  “To have a large space right across from Newark Beth Israel is huge for us,” said Salerno on July 20, as he led Atkind and NJJN on a tour of the hospital’s headquarters in Mountainside.

The new installation — which will serve inner-city and suburban families alike — will be the hospital’s 10th site.

“We were founded in 1891, and whatever the biggest health-care challenges facing children is where we have been,” said Salerno. “During the polio epidemic in the 1940s, we exclusively served children with polio.”

When vaccines made that disease a bad memory, the hospital expanded its mission to serve young people with a wide range of disabilities.

‘A great feeling’

Out of 19,000 patients each year, Salerno estimates that some 3,500 have developmental issues on the autism spectrum.  Another 550 are in-patients at the hospital’s pediatric rehabilitation hospital in New Brunswick staying an average of 4 to 6 weeks.  An additional 60 patients live in the hospital’s two long term care units who are so medically dependent, they require specialized nursing care in our pediatric nursing homes until they become 21.  “The rest are spread across a whole range of different acquired congenital conditions,” he explained.

Atkind described some of them otivations behind the grant. It will be associated with — though not part of — Newark Beth Israel Medical Center, and the Healthcare Foundation was born from the sale of the Beth,” she said. “It is a very caring, humanistic place that serves children and families.It fills a niche in the Newark community that hadn’t been filled until now.”

Dr. Beatriz Gonzalez, a neurologist, will transfer from Mountainside after the hospital’s Newark facility opens in early 2013. She expects to treat “many of the same conditions I see here — children with emotional delays, speech delays, motor delays, and patients with autism and school-related issues.” Gonzalez, who speaks Spanish, said she is “pretty sure I am going to get a lot of Spanish-speaking people.”

As she said goodbye to Salerno on her last workday in Mountainside, a pediatric nurse practitioner named Lori Ioriatti reflected on her 28 years of nursing service at the hospital.

“This work means everything to me,” she said. “It makes me feel good as a person. I am helping society, and I am helping the children. It is a great feeling.”

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