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

ALS clinic at St. Luke’s gains certification

Dr. Jonathan Morrill, left, works with ALS patient Denny Lewis as his wife, Dawn Lewis, watches in 2021 at St. Luke’s Rehabilitation Center in Spokane.  (Tyler Tjomsland/The Spokesman-Review)

A Spokane clinic designed for patients with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, or Lou Gehrig’s disease, has received designation as a certified treatment center of excellence.

The ALS clinic is at Providence St. Luke’s Rehabilitation Medical Center through its physiatry and neuromuscular services. It’s the region’s first clinic to get the ALS Association’s certification, according to Providence Health.

Previously, the closest certified centers were in Seattle and Portland.

ALS causes progressive degeneration of motor nerve cells in the spinal cord and brain, leading to weakness and eventually loss of control with muscles that can affect walking, chewing, swallowing, speaking and breathing.

Dr. Greg Carter, St. Luke’s chief medical officer, said the clinic has partnered with the Steve Gleason Institute for Neuroscience at Washington State University in Spokane and the local Matt’s Place Foundation. Those partnerships offer a comprehensive support system, “so patients, families, and caregivers are better prepared to address the challenges associated with living with ALS,” Carter said.

The ALS Clinic at St. Luke’s provides a multidisciplinary team of specialists for ALS care, with different specialists seeing a patient within one appointment.

The clinic includes a neurologist, physiatrist, advanced registered nurse practitioner, physical therapist, registered dietitian, respiratory therapist, registered nurse and licensed independent clinical social worker. The center also does research.

In an Oct. 28, 2021, article in The Spokesman-Review, clinic leaders said a patient typically gets treatment there once every three months. Those individuals and family caregivers might be at the site for about three to four hours seeing the different specialists.

Bringing together different specialists for one longer patient session, versus multiple appointments is viewed by patients and families as more convenient and cuts down their travel time. Providence said the approach is shown to improve quality of life and survival for ALS patients.

The Providence ALS clinic opened in June 2020, for sessions on the second and fourth Thursdays of each month at St. Luke’s.

Patients may participate in research trials for investigational drugs to treat ALS through the Providence Medical Research Center. Many Providence clinicians are engaged in clinical and translational research in ALS through collaboration with WSU scientists via the Gleason Institute. The ALS Center also trains resident physicians in the management of the complex disease.

The ALS Association CTCE program sets forth rigorous standards and requirements to receive this designation, including:

• Strong relationship with the local ALS Association partner.

• Multidisciplinary team of nursing and allied health professionals.

• Neurologist with the specific knowledge base to evaluate and treat people living with this disease.

• Active involvement in ALS-related research.

• Ongoing process improvement initiatives.

Editor’s note: This story was updated on Feb. 5, 2024, to reflect that a physiatrist is a member of the team. An earlier version gave an incorrect job title because of a copy editor’s error.