There are five words that always make Beth Regan, MS, CCC-SLP, senior speech language pathologist in Rehabilitation Services, smile when she meets with patients at Brigham and Women’s/Mass General Health Care Center at Patriot Place in Foxborough: “I’m so relieved you’re here.”
That’s because, until recently, the Speech and Swallow Service at the Brigham had primarily functioned as an inpatient service. Upon recognizing the large and growing need for more comprehensive speech therapy services in an outpatient, community-based setting, the Rehabilitation Services team opened the ambulatory speech clinic in Foxborough last fall. The launch follows an expansion of outpatient services last summer on the main campus, where the team hosts a half-day clinic for patients with swallowing disorders.
The Foxborough clinic, which operates five days a week, cares for patients with a diverse range of needs around swallowing disorders, language disorders, speech difficulties and cognitive deficits. Patients may be referred to the service following a neurological event that affects their speech, such as a concussion or stroke, or if they experience difficulty swallowing food, liquids or medication.
Laura Kasparian, MS, CCC-SLP, a coordinator in the Speech and Swallow Service, said the team saw an opportunity to improve continuity of care for existing patients who were looking to access physical therapy, occupational therapy and speech therapy in one place. They were also watching the diminishing availability of speech services in the region with growing concern as more local rehabilitation centers closed their doors.
“After an acute neurological event, such as a stroke, patients usually make the most progress in speech rehabilitation within the first six months to a year. If a patient has trouble accessing services during that time, that is a precious window in which they could be making gains,” Kasparian said. “We’re really excited to help meet that need for patients in a convenient setting.”
Regan, who serves as the Foxborough clinic’s sole speech pathologist, said many patients have expressed appreciation for having access to these specialized services in the local community.
“Going into the city can be daunting for a lot of patients who live outside of Boston and are recovering from a stroke or traumatic brain injury,” Regan said. “Being able to access these services closer to home is a true relief for many of our patients.”
The clinic’s integration into the Brigham’s Foxborough site has also enabled Regan to work closely with colleagues in neurology, physical therapy, occupational therapy and other referring providers — ultimately enhancing care for their patients.
“We talk and collaborate often, sharing what we’re seeing in terms of a patient’s rehabilitation and what could be helpful moving forward,” she said. “It’s very much a team effort.”