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Updated: Nov 29, 2023

Cathie Passino

By Karen Hailson Bouvier | Photo by Ty Kretser

“Rehabilitation is an essential part of universal health coverage along with the promotion of good health, prevention of disease, treatment, and palliative care. Globally, an estimated 2.4 billion people are currently living with a health condition that could benefit from rehabilitation. This need is predicted to increase due to changes in the health and characteristics of the population. For example, people are living longer, but with more chronic disease, exposure to injury and disability.”

—World Health Organization (WHO) November 21, 2021

Anyone may need rehabilitation at some point in their lives, following an injury, surgery, disease or illness, or because their ability to function has declined with age. Rehabilitation is highly individualized, meaning that the interventions and approach selected for each client depend on their needs, goals and references. That can mean a need for not just one caregiver/therapist, but a team. If someone needs a team with varying expertise, do they need separate appointments at different locations? How does the team work together? Is their collaboration and communication among themselves and with their client, effective, informed and professional? Until recently, those in need of rehabilitation services in the North Country had to navigate among different locations.

A Long-Awaited Move Originally scheduled for August 2021, the consolidation and transfer of four Plattsburgh-based rehabilitation centers to one all-encompassing facility was delayed for months. Suddenly, in February 2022, Cathie Passino, Director of Rehabilitation Services at CVPH and her team, got the word to start packing.

“The move went extremely well,” said Passino. “With coordination efforts from Facilities, ISS, housekeeping, the service center, the therapists, and the front office staff, we were able to box up and move all the clinics to our newly renovated facility within a four-day period. Everyone was amazing and worked as a cohesive team.” Heavy and delicate machines were among the items that had to be carefully moved and, during that time, a virtual logistical challenge presented itself. During the move, Passino and her team also found themselves in the midst of transitioning to Electronic Medical Records (EMRs). Everything went as planned.

The new facility, located in Suite 101 within the group of medical offices at 210 Cornelia Street, was up and running by April of this year. It is now the headquarters for all of the University of Vermont Health Network-CVPH Physical Therapy, Occupational Therapy and Speech Pathology services.

“This move benefits our clients and our staff,” noted Passino. “There is an added convenience to the location in that it gives our clients and their families a chance to go to other appointments on campus before or after their rehab and continue to work with the same therapists and staff they’ve become comfortable with. With a centralized location, our therapists are able to collaborate more effectively and therefore offer a greater continuity of care and improve the client experience.”

The New Facility Having all rehabilitation services under one roof allows the 45 therapists to work as a cohesive team, strategizing and developing multi-faceted, customized game plans for each client. Another convenience for out-patient clients is they can benefit from a variety of care without having to travel to different locations. Rounding out the team, nine clerical and aide staff handle daily tasks and schedule appointments.

The new facility has a large and open gym layout with a variety of equipment. There is a large waiting room, 12 private treatment rooms, and five private mat tables in the gym area for athletes who want to progress quickly. In nice weather therapists can also provide services outdoors.

In order to give physically disabled clients an environment that feels safe enough to give them the confidence to break through physical and psychological challenges, the team employs Solo-Step, an overhead track and harness system designed to protect against falling. Clients using it can regain strength and balance at a faster rate and increase their confidence.

The list of rehabilitation services Passino and her team offer is extensive and state-of-the-art. It includes Ability II Achieve (adaptive sports program) and sports medicine, stroke and spinal cord rehabilitation, prosthetic and orthotics evaluations and training, language rehabilitation, hand therapy, Parkinson’s and ALS therapy, craniosacral therapy, mouth, pharynx, and esophagus screening, specialized pediatric rehabilitation, and more. Combine these services with a staff that harnesses all its resources to help clients return to the quality of life they want.

For clients residing in CVPH’s Skilled Nursing Facility and Sub-Acute Care Unit, the Rehabilitation Services team plays an integral role in their care plan. Typically, a Physical Therapist will work on walking, leg strength, climbing stairs, stamina, and balance while an Occupational Therapist addresses self-care and other daily activities like dressing, bathing, folding laundry, and kitchen tasks. If a client is experiencing discomfort or challenges with speaking or swallowing, a Speech Pathologist will be included in the treatment plan.

The staff works with in-patients and outpatients, and provides a continuum of care that is tailored for, and responsive to, the needs of each. “Our rehabilitation staff is amazing,” explained Passino. “Watching and seeing the incredible work they do, the patience they exhibit on a daily basis, makes me proud to be part of this team. The dedication, hard work and research for each client is stellar — second to none.”

The Next Five Years As they move forward, Passino and her team plan to enhance the treatment they offer their clients by continuing to grow programming, expand education and add additional staff with varying expertise. They are here to help North Country residents to reclaim their lives.

CVPH Rehabilitation Services 210 Cornelia Street, Suite 101 Plattsburgh, NY 12901 (518) 562-4616

Cathie Passino exudes positive energy, and clearly loves her job. “I am inspired by learning new things, working with staff, clients, and families, and doing what I can to make the world a more loving and caring place.”

When Passino began her job as Director of Rehab 18 years ago, she brought extensive education (degrees from SUNY Plattsburgh in Microbiology, Cell Research, Art, Business, and Medical Technology) as well as management experience in the pharmaceutical industry. (She began as a pharmaceutical researcher and worked her way up to supervising 300 employees.)

“I love medicine, technology and am totally people oriented. I want to help the world.” said Passino, who was born on Long Island, but found her true home in the North Country. “I’m proud to work for such an outstanding facility as CVPH Medical Center, and that includes the staff and management. They have given me the opportunity to use my education and life experiences and share them with the people I supervise.”

When asked about her management style, Passino credited self-reflection, collaboration, true caring for each individual, and equal consideration for all. She maintains an open, honest and caring attitude and will “go the extra mile” for anyone. However, in order to be effective—especially over the long term — she also knows the value of self-care. She takes her vacations, leaves work conversations at work and spends the time to have meaningful in-person conversations with those she works with rather than by ineffective, interruptive and easily misunderstood emails or texts.

Being responsive to immediate changes, making sure the therapists have the tools they need and working every day to offer the best services they can provide can be daunting. Versatility is key. “Working here is incredible and wonderful. I love watching people get better,” said Passino. “I am so proud to be part of the rehabilitation piece of health care. The therapy team deserves all the credit, though. They are the boots on the ground.’

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