Bay Health Foundation awards $15,000 to FSU Panama City Early Childhood Autism Program

From L to R: ECAP Clinical Coordinator Dakota Januchowski; ECAP Program Director Emily N. Dickens, Ed.D.; Associate Dean of Academic Affairs Amy Polick, Ph.D.; FSU Foundation Director of Development-Panama City Katie May; and Dr. Jim Cook III, chairman of the Bay Health Foundation Board of Trustees.

The Bay Health Foundation has awarded a $15,000 grant to the FSU Foundation for the Early Childhood Autism Program (ECAP) at FSU Panama City. The funds will allow an expansion of applied behavior analysis therapy services for children and young adults with developmental delays or disabilities.

Bay Health Foundation (BHF) Board of Trustees Chairman Dr. Jim Cook III presented the grant during a luncheon on Thursday, Feb. 8. BHF has been supporting ECAP with grants and scholarships since 2016. This donation will provide continued patient care for existing clients and expansion of services to new patients from the waitlist.

“We are thankful for the direct benefit to the families we serve, as well as the relationships we’ve built with other service providers as we work to expand the reach of ECAP and further meet the needs of Bay County,” said Emily N. Dickens, ECAP program director.

Established in 2001, ECAP is an early intervention and community outreach program for children diagnosed with or presenting symptoms of autism spectrum disorder, Down syndrome, cerebral palsy and intellectual disability. The program helps clients develop language, self-help, academic, communication and social skills through in-home, in-school and in-clinic services.

“I think ECAP recognizes that children with autism grow into young adults who sometimes continue to face challenges,” Dickens said. “These are challenges that we are ready to help them overcome.”

According to the grant document, the funds will support two types of patient care: one-on-one direct applied behavior analysis (ABA) therapy between a therapist and a child; and individualized training for children’s parents or caregivers, so they can play an active role and implement strategies at home.

“This increases the impact of the ABA therapy we provide,” Dickens said. “The behavioral symptoms of autism can be alleviated with ABA, and this type of therapy requires consistency, repetition and endurance in terms of direct patient care.”

Children on the BHF/ECAP scholarship typically receive between four to eight hours of free patient care per week, allowing them to learn and acquire skills while working toward reductions in problematic behaviors that impede their progress or negatively impact families.

Created in 2012 when LHP Hospital Group and Sacred Heart Health System leased Bay Medical Center in Panama City, Bay Health Foundation’s mission is to promote the health and well-being of Bay County residents. In that time, the foundation’s grant committee has awarded $5.8 million to local non-profit health care organizations. This year’s awards totaled $500,000 to 15 area non-profits.

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