Funds to help health groups address dementia, cancer, autism – Utica OD – 1/27/19

January 27, 2019

A diverse group of new, local health initiatives — providing better care for patients with dementia, supporting cancer patients with music and wellness programs for people on the autism spectrum — are getting a funding boost from Excellus BlueCross BlueShield.

The insurer recently announced that it is providing Community Health Awards worth a total of $35,000 to 13 nonprofits in its 14-county service area for programs to improve the health or health care of a specific population.

One grant went to the KEYS Program in Sherrill for a series of community workshops on alternative healing options using music. The free workshops will provide information, tools and resources to help participants make music a part of treatment and recovery.

“At this moment, in every community, almost every one of us have a family member or close friend who is battling cancer, with many battling themselves,” said Executive Director/founder Colleen Bennett in an email. “Our Music Heals workshop series will help to bring music, joy, hope and healing to all attendees, whether they are a cancer patient, caregiver or simply a friend who wants to learn how they can help their neighbor through their journey.”

KEYS’ primary mission is to help children diagnosed with cancer and their families by providing free music outreach, family respite days and sibling support programs.

The Masonic Care Community is using another grant for its new Train the Trainer program to help nursing home staff address mood and behavior challenges, particularly in residents with dementia, without using medications. The goal is to optimize the quality of life and function of residents by better meeting their health, psychosocial and behavioral needs.

“It will help our staff recognize ‘I can help in this way or I can help in that way,’” said Kathy Contino-Turner, director of communications and marketing.

Another program supported by an award, the Kelberman Center’s Off the Couch & Outisde the Box Wellness Series, provides workouts, a healthy cooking class and a wellness class for children and young adults on the autism spectrum.

“From a very young age, people with autism are at a higher risk for a number of health issues related to nutrition and obesity,” said Eryn Balch, managing director of business operations, in an email. “This likely stems from a combination of factors including sensory issues, limited diets, and side effects of medication, among others. Compounding this situation is the fact that many people with autism face communication and social skills challenges that may prevent them from joining community groups and programs.”

The Rescue Mission of Utica will use its award to pay for tuberculosis tests for people admitted to its Addictions Stabilization Center. With 850 clients a year, the screening gets expensive, and the grant money will free up resources for other uses, said Hank Visalli, director of clinical services.

Awards to area nonprofits also will pay for fresh produce vouchers at a food pantry run by the First Presbyterian Church in Cooperstown and for two lunch classes for people with diabetes and chronic diseases learning management skills through programming by the Madison County Rural Health Council in Morrisville.

KEYS will hold its Music Heals workshops for cancer patients, families and caregivers on:

• Thursday, April 25 from 6 to 7:30 p.m. at the Sherrill Kenwood Library in Sherrill.

• Monday, April 29 from 6 to 7:30 p.m. at Centerpoint Church in Barneveld.

Contact reporter Amy Neff Roth at 315-792-5166 or follow her on Twitter (@OD_Roth).



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