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Parkinson’s Foundation Adds 3 Centers of Excellence to Its Network

PARKINSON’S NEWS TODAY — September 27, 2018 — BY LARRY LUXNOR Ohio’s Cleveland Clinic will officially become a Parkinson’s Foundation Center of Excellence on Oct. 2, followed by the Medical University of South Carolina in Charleston on Oct. 4, and the Cleveland Clinic Nevada in Las Vegas on Oct. 19.

Next month’s three plaque unveiling ceremonies will bring the number of U.S. and overseas facilities bearing the designation to 45, said John Lehr, CEO of the Parkinson’s Foundation.

“The centers are already functional, and up and running,” Lehr told Parkinson’s News Today in a Sept. 26 phone interview. “What this designation means is that they have achieved a certain level of excellence as defined by the foundation. There’s a series of criteria we look at. All these facilities competed with 28 other potential centers, and after a careful yearlong review, we determined that these three were the best qualified to become centers of excellence.”

In other words, Lehr said, these three centers — along with the other 42 that have already received the designation — are “fully credentialed in terms of having movement disorder specialists and neurologists trained in Parkinson’s-specific issues.”

Such centers are staffed with teams of professionals in physical therapy, occupational therapy, social work, and mental health.

“They’re already providing patients with the full range of ancillary services and also conducting research,” said Lehr, estimating they serve a combined 120,000 Parkinson’s patients annually.

Among patient advocacy groups, the Centers of Excellence concept originated  with the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation (CFF), where Lehr worked from 2004-2009 on the business side. Among other things at CFF, he ran a national campaign that raised $1758 million – money that paid for the early-phase trials of the Vertex therapies that ultimately became Kalydeco (ivacaftor) and Orkambi (ivacaftor/lumacaftor).

“This is the same concept,” Lehr said “In each disease-specific area where you have these types of centers, it’s a signal to patients with the disease – and their caregivers – that they can be assured they’re getting the highest level of care.”

The expansion of the Centers of Excellence project, first announced earlier this month, is funded through donations from individuals. The largest single gift — in the amount of $450,000 — comes from philanthropist Stephen Bittel, founder and CEO of the South Florida real-estate developer Terranova.