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State to improve Parkinsons care

October 26, 2000
Dr. Jay M. Gorrell speaks at a conference announcing the formation of the Michigan Parkinson Initiative at the Kellogg Center on Wednesday. Public health officials, doctors, government officials and members of the public gathered from around the state to

The state’s premiere research universities - MSU, the University of Michigan and Wayne State University - will collaborate with major health care providers to improve the quality of medical care to in-state Parkinson’s disease patients.

The Michigan Parkinson Initiative, which was announced Wednesday during a press conference at the Kellogg Center, enlists the help of the medical schools of the three universities, the Henry Ford Health System, Beaumont Neuroscience Center, St. John’s Parkinson’s Disease and Movement Disorders Clinic, the Michigan Parkinson Foundation and the Michigan Department of Community Health.

Parkinson’s disease is a neurological disorder that can cause slowness of movement, impaired balance and coordination, stiffness of the limbs and trembling of the hands, arms, legs, jaw and face. The disease is both chronic and progressive, meaning that its symptoms worsen over time, but it is not fatal.

Kathleen Damian, who chairs the Michigan Parkinson Foundation Board of Directors, said the initiative aims to combine efforts of the best Parkinson’s physicians.

“Our goal was to seek additional funding in order to reach out to people in all of Michigan with the expertise of movement disorder specialists,” she said.

“We wanted to find ways for the organizations to share equipment and expertise in research grants.”

The state Department of Community Health allocated $200,000 of its 2001 budget for the creation of the Michigan Parkinson Initiative.

Director James Haveman said the new program will create more accessibility to state-of-the-art Parkinson’s care for state residents who may live outside of metro areas.

“There is a huge, rural part of Michigan that deserves to have access to the best practice and this helps,” he said.

“This provides education to people who just don’t know a lot about the disease.”

Paul Cullis, a physician with Wayne State University and St. John’s Health System, described the initiative as “one-stop shopping.”

He said patients would be able to spend half a day at one of the numerous facilities throughout the state and, during the visit, would also be able to see neurology experts, occupational therapists, physical therapists, speech therapists and neurosurgeons.

The disease has been thrust into the national spotlight in recent years, as celebrities have announced living with the disease. Boxing legend Muhammad Ali, actor Michael J. Fox and U.S. Attorney General Janet Reno have all been diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease.

But the disease has impact on local residents, too.

East Lansing resident B.J. Scott is married to Jimmy Scott, a “Parkinsonian,” and volunteers with the Michigan Parkinson Foundation.

Scott said she attended Wednesday morning’s press conference because the disease has had a large impact on her family.

“Jimmy can hardly get out of the house without help,” Scott said.

“He does really well, but it takes three to five hours to get him ready every day because he has to have his food, medicine and exercise before he leaves.”

Scott said the initiative will provide awareness about the disease for all families coping with Parkinson’s.

“The more public relations, the more the word gets out,”she said. “That will help the ones that have already been diagnosed and the ones who haven’t.”


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