Arrow-right Camera
The Spokesman-Review Newspaper
Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883

Family can afford child’s therapy thanks to Elevations grant

Shana Bailey, a speech language pathologist, works with 4-year-old Amerah Rounsley during a speech therapy session at Youthful Horizons on Wednesday. Amerah’s family received a grant from Elevations to help pay for her speech therapy. (Colin Mulvany)
Valerie Putnam

Spokane Valley residents Matt and Ashley Rounsley were faced with a tough choice: Pay a third more in medical insurance premiums or trim their coverage.

They chose the latter, but the change had an unintentional impact on Amerah, their 4-year-old daughter.

Diagnosed with expressive language disorder, Amerah needs speech therapy to prepare for kindergarten. Prior to the insurance change, she was undergoing speech therapy once a week.

“The earlier they start the better,” Ashley Rounsley said. “In kindergarten how she speaks affects how she reads and writes. It’s a huge blessing we caught it early to help her so it’s not as big a struggle down the road.”

But with the change in insurance, the Rounsleys went from paying a co-pay for Amerah’s weekly therapy sessions to paying for each session in full, with the cost being applied to their $1,500 deductible.

“We thought we had the same coverage but learned after the fact it wasn’t covered,” Matt Rounsley said about discovering speech therapy was no longer a covered item. “We started receiving bills in the mail.”

As the costs for the weekly visits added up, the Rounsley’s made a tough decision.

“Everything was out of pocket,” Matt said. “Just the sheer cost of speech therapy was hurting us so we had to then go every other week.”

With the reduced visits, Ashley noticed a decline in Amerah’s progress.

That’s when Amerah’s therapist recommended talking to David Owan about Elevations grant program. The Rounsleys received a grant this spring to help pay for Amerah’s speech therapy and were able to reinstate weekly sessions.

Stories like the Rounsleys’ are what prompted Owan and four medical professionals to launch Elevations: A Children’s Therapy Resource Foundation in 2012.

The nonprofit organization assists families struggling to pay for therapeutic services.

“I noticed a real change seven years ago,” Owan said about rising co-pays and insurance deductibles. “Over the last four to five years it has gotten much worse with the changes within health care.”

Elevations provides grants to families to cover the cost of their children’s therapy such as physical, occupational, speech, nutritional and horse riding. It also helps children acquire equipment they may need.

“A lot of insurance companies don’t pay for equipment,” Owan said.

Elevations works with area licensed therapeutic professionals to identify uninsured and underinsured children, newborn to 18 years old. Identified families are encouraged to apply for grants awarded through Elevations.

“We help anybody regardless of diagnosis or financial situation,” Owan said. “We didn’t want that to be a limiting factor in who we helped because each family situation is so different.”

Qualifying children must be undergoing therapy, and require a recommendation from a licensed provider as part of the application process. Applications are reviewed twice a year, spring and fall by the Elevations board.

“It’s one of those needs that is out there,” Matt Rounsley said. “For people like us who don’t qualify for any type of assistance but definitely need it.”

Funds are dispersed directly to the specific providers. Any pediatric provider can participate as long as they agree to the terms of the grant.

Elevations is funded strictly by donations and grants. So far, the organization has undergone two funding cycles. The next grant applications are due Oct. 24 with funding awarded in November.

This year’s Ghost Ball benefits Elevations. The charity event is Oct. 25 in the auditorium at Riverside Place, the former Masonic Temple at 1107 W. Main Ave.

“This venue is fantastic,” Elevations Executive Director Nancy Huettl said about the event location. “It’s spooky cool. It has the big stage, with old seats and old floor, with crazy lighting.”

The event features appetizers, raffles, costume awards, a silent auction and dancing.

“It’s going to be fun,” Huettl said.