Oct. 25, 1999 Vol. IV, No. 5

Achievement Center for Physically Disabled Looking to Expand

Four-Pool Aquatic Therapy Proposal Seeking Federal and Private Funding

When Lillian Bixby came to Cal State Northridge as a student 30 years ago, she was confined to a wheelchair and required 24-hour care to attend to her personal needs because of cerebral palsy.

After spending years working with CSUN kinesiology professor Sam Britten(right) in a series of specialized therapy sessions, Bixby became totally independent, and even walked down the aisle at her own wedding.

Britten worked with Bixby through CSUN's Center of Achievement for the Physically Disabled, which since 1960 has helped bring independence to hundreds of disabled people suffering from multiple sclerosis, osteoporosis, stroke, arthritis, head trauma, spinal cord injury and similar disabilities.

Just how popular and respected is Britten's operation? The center now has the capacity to serve about 600 patients a year, and there still is a list of more than 100 people who wait an average of two years for treatment.

CSUN has been working with U.S. Rep. Howard "Buck" McKeon, R-Santa Clarita, who represents Northridge, attempting to gain federal funding to expand the center into the Western Center for Adaptive Aquatic Therapy.

The proposed 10,000-square-foot facility would include four therapeutic pools, each designed to meet the specialized rehabilitation and habilitation needs of persons with varying disabling conditions. It would be the only facility of its kind in the western United States.

Federal funding for the facility was authorized by McKeon's 1998 legislation, the Workforce Investment Act.

The congressman lately has been working on getting the actual money appropriated by Congress, but the outcome for this year's budget process remains uncertain.

Last May, McKeon sent a letter (also signed by Reps. Howard Berman, D-Van Nuys, Elton Gallegly, R-Simi Valley, James Rogan, R-Glendale, and Brad Sherman, D-Sherman Oaks) to the House Appropriations Committee asking that $2.5 million for the aquatic facility be included in the new Labor-HHS Appropriations Act.

The total cost of building and opening the aquatic facility on campus is estimated at $3.4 million. About $900,000 has been raised thus far. The remainder (a little more than $2.4 million) is being sought from the federal government.

"Programs at the Western Center for Adaptive Aquatic Therapy would build upon our 39 years of experience to model and develop adaptive aquatic interventions that would help people with chronic physical disabilities function as well as possible," said Britten, founder and director of the original center, who also would head the new center.

"It would serve as a proving ground for innovation in this type of treatment that could be expanded and offered through community-based university programs throughout the United States," Britten added.

Britten's original center has been recognized internationally for its success in rehabilitating people who have made little or no progress after being released from the hospital. The center has given hope and encouragement to many whose disabilities, disease or injury have left them without hope and the motivation to improve.

Treatment at the center is provided at minimal cost because it is a training facility for advanced or graduate students at CSUN who serve as the patients' primary therapists.


October 25, 1999

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