Blue Mountain Hospital District has something to talk about — a new speech language pathology program available for patients of all ages.

Having the program available locally through the Rehabilitation Services Department at BMHD means that patients will no longer have to travel to receive the needed therapies.

Speech language pathologist Charissa Moulton is making the rounds and is seeing the positive impact in the patients she’s seen after just one month of the program rolling out.

There are varying reasons a person may need help from someone with Moulton’s expertise, including a stroke, Parkinson’s disease, dementia or a brain injury.

“It’s bigger than just speech and language,” she said.

For example, if a person’s oral skills have been affected by a stroke, Moulton can offer swallowing therapy. A person with this difficulty may aspirate water and need a thicker consistency of liquid or need dietary modifications for softer food.

Depending on why they have trouble swallowing, Moulton may teach oral strengthening exercises or compensatory strategies, such as a chin tuck or turning their head to the side.

If a patient has speech problems, Moulton can assist with what’s called alternative and augmented communication, which could include an iPad to help them communicate, or pictures, writing or pointing to something written.

Moulton can also address cognitive issues a patient may be having, as well as voice disorders, stuttering, language, speech and sound disorders.

If a patient has been admitted to the hospital, the process would include a doctor referring patient to Moulton, who would then perform an evaluation with the patient and diagnose the severity of the problem and recommend therapy or dietary modifications.

Moulton also sees people on an outpatient basis.

A Mt. Vernon resident, Moulton has lived in Grant County for nine years and is married with three children, ages 5, 3 and 8 months.

In her free time, she enjoys camping and hunting with her family and visiting with friends and relatives.

Prior to receiving her Master’s degree in Communication Sciences and Disorders from Idaho State University, Moulton was employed as an early intervention specialist and a speech language pathology assistant in Grant County for nine years, working with children ages 0-5.

While working toward her master’s, she completed 1,260 clinical hours assisting younger and school-age children and adults under supervisors in Pocatello, Idaho; Meridian, Idaho; Boise, Idaho; and Pendleton.

Blue Mountain Hospital District’s physical therapy department is now called the Rehabilitation Services Department because it now includes the speech language pathology program.

Rehabilitation Services Manager Megan Pass, who also holds a Doctor of Physical Therapy and is a physical therapist, said she’s excited about the opportunity for Grant County residents.

“We are providing excellent speech therapy care here,” Pass said. “This minimizes the amount of required travel out of town for health care. It is also furthering BMHD’s mission statement ‘Quality healthcare close to home’ as we now provide speech language pathology in our own community.”

The demand for speech therapy is high nationwide, Moulton said, and based on the number of referrals she’s seen, the need locally is great as well.

Moulton said she finds her field of work interesting and rewarding.

She said functional swallowing skills play a key role in overall health, and she’s dedicated to helping individuals achieve an improved quality of life.

It’s a great experience to see someone go from eating pureed foods to enjoying some of their favorite foods again, she said.

“A couple people who have been discharged (in the past month) have been able to go back to the foods they had before they came in,” she said.

She added, “There’s nothing so fulfilling as helping someone who is not able to express themselves — you can see their frustration — to being able to communicate with people and see their personality come out and their confidence.”

For more information, contact the Rehabilitation Services Department at 541-575-4157.

Angel Carpenter is a reporter for the Blue Mountain Eagle. She can be contacted at angel@bmeagle.com or 541-575-0710.

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