Western Pennsylvania Stroke Survivors Call on Community for Help

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Decades-old program facing extinction without short-term investment support

A group of clinical and business leaders asked for community help today to prevent Western Pennsylvania from losing its only non-profit support program for people struggling to recover from stroke.

Stroke Survivor Connection needs critical near-term capital to overcome budget shortfalls created by regulatory changes and the economic downturn. Stroke Survivor Connection traces its roots back nearly a hundred years as an initiative that evolved from the historic Visiting Nurse Association.

Each year, Stroke Survivor Connection provides free physical, cognitive, emotional, and social rehabilitation to hundreds of stroke survivors and their caregivers in more than 25 local communities. Recognized for its innovative approach, the organization is noted for developing a rehabilitative support program that is considered unique nationally.

“During the last 10 years, we have made enormous progress in delivering high quality clinical care to patients who suffer from stroke that have lessened stroke disability and death,” said Dr. Ashis Tayal, Medical Director at the Comprehensive Stroke Center at Allegheny General Hospital and a Stroke Survivor Connection board member. “Stroke Survivor Connection fills a critical gap in the rehabilitative process. We cannot allow this organization to disappear.”

Historically, Stroke Survivor Connection was self-funded from flu clinics and other sponsored programs. Abrupt changes in state policy regulating flu injections eliminated this revenue stream almost overnight.

“We were a model of ‘social entrepreneurship’ before it became a trend,” said Dotti Bechtol, Executive Director of Stroke Survivor Connection. “But because we never relied on government or foundation dollars, we are virtually unknown to local funders when we need them the most. The demise of our flu shot program, combined with the economic downturn, created a perfect storm.”

In late 2009, Stroke Survivor Connection convened successful entrepreneurs, legal and accounting experts, and other business leaders to develop a new business model for the organization. The resulting business plan relies on revenues from sponsored research, reimbursement, and national licensing of the Stroke Survivor Connection model. For example, the Stroke Survivor Connection is using the Nintendo Wii in stroke rehab, a program that is a guide for future innovation and corporate partnerships.

To sustain the organization through 2010, Stroke Survivor Connection needs a minimum of $250,000 in funding support by June 30. To execute its new Business Plan, the organization requires total seed capital of $2 million to reach full sustainability in less than three years.

“We see a great opportunity to leverage our reputation in the community to bring new therapies and products to stroke survivors,” said John Dick, a local CEO and chair of the Stroke Survivor Connection board. “We have the management team and entrepreneurial culture to turn Stroke Survivor Connection into a national model. We just need the initial investment capital to get it started.”

The organization is calling on business and civic leaders to reach out with short-term funding so the crucial and enduring program can continue serving Western Pennsylvania stroke survivors without interruption.

More information is available at http://www.StrokeSurvivorConnection.org.


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