New facility to provide more resources for children with special needs

Saturday, January 26, 2013 - 1:00am

Today, the Baton Rouge Speech and Hearing Foundation (BRSHF) broke ground at the LSU Innovation Park for its new, larger facility that will be called The Emerge Center for Communication, Behavior and Development.

As a non-profit organization, The Emerge Center will offer clinically-effective therapies to children and adults with communication difficulties from the Greater Baton Rouge area and across Southern Louisiana, regardless of their ability to pay.

In recent years, the demand for BRSHF’s services has risen sharply. To meet the growing needs of the community, especially children with Autism, BRSHF launched a capital campaign in 2011 to increase access to its services.

To date, BRSHF has raised $6.4 million in donor pledges towards its $7 million campaign goal. Key campaign supporters include The Albemarle Foundation, The Irene W. and C.B. Pennington Foundation, The Reilly Family Foundation, The Shaw Group, Inc., Bert and Sue Turner and The Huey and Angelina Wilson Foundation. In addition to this strong community support, in December 2012, BRSHF was able to secure new markets tax credits to assist in funding the project.

“We’re excited to start construction on our project and we are very grateful to the many donors in this community who have made this milestone possible,” said Melissa Juneau, Executive Director of BRSHF.

BRSHF selected the LSU Innovation Park as the site for its new center because of the research-driven nature of its innovative therapies as well as the long-standing partnerships it enjoys with LSU faculty and student workers.

“We could not be more pleased and proud to welcome The Emerge Center as the first tenant to break ground at LSU’s Innovation Park,” said William Jenkins, LSU Interim Chancellor and System President. “Today is truly an historic moment for the entire university community and for the Baton Rouge Speech and Hearing Foundation as we celebrate the coming together of our respective, unique and world-class resources and talents. In technology, research opportunities and facilities, our noble collaboration will benefit and serve so many both in Baton Rouge and far beyond its borders. We could not have asked for a better partner to make its permanent home at LSU Innovation Park and wish to congratulate them on this major milestone.”

“Today is an exciting day for the LSU Innovation Park and The Emerge Center. This marks a great public-private partnership where a private entity is working with the faculty and students at LSU in a state of the art training and research center,” said Charlie D’Agostino, Executive Director of the LSU Innovation Park. “This is the ideal ‘First Building’ at the Innovation Park which sets the theme for the Park. The Emerge Center exemplifies the vision of LSU for developing a world class Innovation Park were the university and the private sector come together.”

The Emerge Center will be 26,000 square feet, more than double the organization’s current fifty-year-old building on West Roosevelt Street. Coleman Partners Architects and Faulk and Meek General Contractors are project partners. The new center will enable the organization to greatly expand its services, including:

  • Doubling the number served in the group speech program
  • Increasing the number of children in the Autism program from 46 to 100 in five years
  • Increasing occupational therapy from 1 to 5 days a week, treating up to 60 clients a week
  • Enabling children with Autism to enroll in a five-day-a-week intensive program (as opposed to only 3 days a week due to current space constraints)
  • Increasing comprehensive services of a licensed, PhD Board Certified Behavior Analyst (who manages the Autism program) from 1 part-time to 2 full-time
  • Doubling Audiology staff (from 1 to 2) to serve 2,100 clients in a year
  • Adding a kindergarten-level classroom for 10 to 12 children at a time
  • Adding an Occupational Therapy/Indoor Sensory Gym

To better communicate the broad range of therapies it provides, BRSHF will change its name when The Emerge Center opens in mid-2014.

“We are very pleased with the significant progress we have made in our capital campaign. We are excited about The Emerge Center and the impact it will have on this community for many years to come,” said Jean-Paul Perrault, President of BRSHF’s Board of Directors.

BRSHF was founded in 1960 as a non-profit organization to help deaf and hearing impaired children. The BRSHF now offers one-on-one, early intervention treatment for Autism, group speech therapy in a year-round, preschool setting, occupational therapy and behavioral therapy for children and audiology services for all ages.

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