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MU Adult Occupational Therapy Center Offers Services to Those Unable to Afford Help

Lab also provides a unique learning experience for students

March 8, 2007

Story Contact:  Jennifer Faddis, 573-882-6217,

COLUMBIA, Mo. — There are certain people who fall through a gap in medical care — those who are too young to receive Medicare and those with insurance coverage that is cut off too soon. These are the people who come to the Adult Occupational Therapy Clinic at the University of Missouri-Columbia for help and who, in turn, provide students with an unparalleled learning experience.

The adult occupational therapy clinic just completed its first year in the School of Health Professions. It is a program that embeds active clinic work into coursework for students. Giulianne Krug, clinical instructor in the MU School of Health Professions, began the program to “facilitate the clinical reasoning skills” of students and provide a real world understanding of what they learn in class, bringing the students away from textbooks as their only educational source.

“Most of the clients have no source of funding elsewhere,” Krug said. “We are working with a 42-year-old woman who had a stroke two months ago and she doesn't qualify for Medicare or have insurance. We also see many clients whose insurance or Medicare will no longer pay for therapy due to the time since onset of their diagnosis, even though studies have shown therapy to still be very beneficial after this time.”

Most of the participants have suffered from strokes, some have multiple sclerosis or brain injuries, and others have chronic pain. The lab has seen great progress for most of its clients. For example, students have helped a 29-year-old woman with cerebral palsy who had to call her mother three times a day at work to help her use the bathroom, which she now does independently after a semester in the clinic.

“We really don't turn anyone away,” Krug said. “If they have honest and legitimate goals they're working toward, we will help them work toward them.”

Students at other universities get the chance to work with real patients, but the MU clinic is unique because it helps people who cannot find help anywhere else. Most therapy centers have billing options that make them more like traditional clinics. The clinic at MU survives mostly through donations, support from the School of Health Professions, and the time and work of students and faculty.

“Part of being an occupational therapist is a concern with the well-being of the community, and offering free services is a part of that,” Krug said.

The occupational therapy program is a three-year entry-level master's program, now admitting 24 students per year, though there is still a certain space issue. Both the classroom and the lab/clinic occupy a single room in the basement of Lewis Hall, where clients have to walk down flights of steps through long hallways just to get to the clinic. A lack of funding has kept Krug from being able to move locations or expand the capacity. Right now the clinic has 12 to 15 clients, though they hope to receive more next year.

“We certainly can't solve every problem in the world, but we can help provide services to help keep people from falling through the cracks,” Krug said.