KANSAS CITY, Kan. — The University of Kansas Medical Center will use an $800,000 grant from the Conrad N. Hilton Foundation to create a new center to help patients with multiple sclerosis (MS) improve their emotional health, physical function and lifestyle habits. It will be one of only a handful of programs in the United States that addresses the varied symptoms throughout the continuum of MS.
KU Medical Center will renovate a building north of its campus that previously housed a day care facility at 3503 Rainbow Blvd. The building will serve as the new home for the center.
Sharon Lynch, M.D., a professor of neurology at KU Medical Center, will serve as director of the expanded center, which will be a hub for research and integrated services to help patients who are living with MS, a disease that affects the central nervous system and has no known cure.
“Our goal is to help patients with multiple sclerosis and their families have the best quality of life that they possibly can,” Lynch said. “We know that doctors’ visits alone don’t always get these patients to the place where they need to be. By providing a range of opportunities for patients, we can help address more of their needs in one place.”
The Comprehensive Center for Multiple Sclerosis Care will include a multidisciplinary team incorporating neurology, urology, neuropsychology, ophthalmology, physical and occupational therapy, and family medicine.
A key component of this comprehensive center will be the inclusion of the existing Mid America MS Achievement Center that Lynch has operated as an independent nonprofit since 1997 at the Rehabilitation Institute of Kansas City. This day program for people with MS, now called the KU MS Achievement Center, is designed to help participants optimize their functional ability, adapt to limitations and live proactively. The program now serves 34 participants each week. The new building and funding from the Hilton Foundation will allow the program to expand that number to 100 to 125 participants served weekly.
The grant from the Conrad N. Hilton Foundation will be used to expand programming, while KU Endowment will raise money to furnish the building. Renovation of the building could be completed next year.
The new center came about through collaboration with several partners in the MS community, including The Mid America MS Achievement Center, KU Medical Center, The Rehabilitation Institute of Kansas City, the National MS Society and Turning Point, a program at The University of Kansas Hospital that helps patients address the psychological and social challenges of their illness.
At the new center, the partners will provide:
Group counseling and psychology sessions for participants focusing on emotional health, adjustment and wellness.
Physical and occupational therapy sessions that address improving and maintaining physical function.
Recreational therapy including yoga, tai chi, music therapy and Cognifitness – a program to help individuals adapt to cognitive changes that can occur with MS.
Opportunities for patients to participate in research studies being conducted at KU Medical Center and to receive clinical care from specialized neurologists and other types of physicians.
Anne Hussar, 63, of Overland Park, is a former fast food franchise owner who has lived with MS since being diagnosed in 1997. She has participated in the existing program and said it has helped her connect with other people who also are dealing with the disease.
“It really lifts your spirits and helps you deal with your illness,” she said. “You can talk to other people about what you’ve experienced and find out how to deal with what you’re going through.”
About Multiple Sclerosis
Multiple sclerosis is a progressive disease of the central nervous system for which there is no known cure. It affects about 400,000 people in the United States, many of which have different symptoms and disease progression. Multiple sclerosis has a mild form, but it can become a progressive disease. The more progressive forms of the disease commonly involve major symptoms such as difficulty or inability to walk, fatigue, partial paralysis or stiffness of limbs, difficulty with short-term memory, and emotional challenges due to illness. Other common symptoms include fatigue, balance problems, numbness and vision loss. MS treatment for these problems ideally involves several disciplines and specialists including doctors, nurses, therapists and service providers.