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Senate OKs $1.3M in area health, education funds

Volunteers of America and Allied Services are among the local recipients of federal funds.

U.S. Senators Arlen Specter and Bob Casey announced Monday that the U.S. Senate Appropriations Committee has approved more than $1.3 million in federal funding for several Northeastern Pennsylvania health and education projects.

The services are contained in the Fiscal Year 2010 Labor, Health, Human Services, Education and Related Agencies Appropriations Bill. The bill must be approved by the full Senate, the House of Representatives and signed into law by President Barack Obama before funding is final.

One agency – Volunteers of America in Luzerne County – would receive $100,000 for trauma recovery mental health services to children and families. The program provides direct services to children and families that have experienced the trauma of physical and sexual abuse, violent crime, homelessness, natural disasters, and other devastating events.

Volunteers of America Executive Director Bill Jones said the funding, if allocated, will help expand a critical program.

“We are trying to take the concept of support for children and families from the Hartman Home to the community at-large,” Jones said. “We can do the same kind of work and it wouldn’t be residentially based – it would be more of an out-patient setting.”

Jones said his agency has identified a real need in the community for the program.

Jones said the agency’s Hartman Home Residential Treatment Facility serves youth who are victims of trauma, abuse and neglect. Critical to this work is support and counseling for Hartman Home residents and, as important, is the therapeutic support needed to strengthen their families and their relationships with their families.

“Serving children and strengthening families in Northeastern PA is a goal that both our U.S. senators feel is important,” Jones said. “The funding is a long process and is still a long way from final approval.”

Allied Services Foundation would also receive $100,000 for rehabilitation equipment to safely move patients and ensure the safety of staff. Tom Pugh, Allied vice president and chief executive officer at John Heinz Rehabilitation in Wilkes-Barre Township, said the money would be used to purchase patient lifts used to transfer patients in and out of bed.

“Our nursing department performed studies that looked at transferring patients and what can be done more effectively,” Pugh said. “By using the lifts, we expect to save employee injuries and make it safer for our patients.”

Other Northeastern Pennsylvania projects in the bill include:

• $250,000 for Commonwealth Medical College in Lackawanna County to purchase equipment for a molecular biology facility in order to advance research at the new medical school.

• $100,000 for Misericordia University for facilities and equipment for the College of Health Sciences.

• $100,000 for Northeast Regional Cancer Institute to help establish a regional cancer registry.

• $100,000 for Supporting Autism and Families Everywhere in Luzerne County for vocational services and program support.

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