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Advancing Health Care

Community Bank Gift to Boost Center for Advancement of Youth’s ASD Program

Occupational therapist Mary Lowry Vollema works with ASD patient Justin Youngblood of Pearl, Mississippi, at the Center for Advancement of Youth.

A $1 million gift to the University of Mississippi Medical Center’s Center for Advancement of Youth from Community Bank and Senior Chairman of the Board Thomas W. Colbert Sr. and his wife, Ann, will advance care for Mississippi children who have Autism Spectrum Disorder.

“Ann and I have been so greatly blessed throughout our lives, it is our privilege to give back to the underserved children of Mississippi,” Colbert said. “The Center for Advancement of Youth will not only identify the great need we have for behavioral services throughout the state, but provide these services through their exceptionally designed program.”

Community Bank and the Colberts each donated $500,000 through the University of Mississippi Foundation to support CAY, which offers comprehensive, coordinated care across disciplines for children with behavioral or developmental issues. The center is located in the Highland Bluff building on Old Canton Road in Northeast Jackson.

“Community Bank is honored to stand beside the personal contribution of our Senior Chairman, Thomas Colbert and his wife, Ann, to partner with The Center for Advancement of Youth,” said Community Bank President and CEO Chuck Nicholson. “There is a great need for behavioral services in the lives of many Mississippi children. Our hope through this contribution is that CAY will be better equipped to identify and treat the developmental and behavioral disorders throughout our state.”

Dr. David Elkin, CAY executive director and professor of psychiatry at the University of Mississippi Medical Center, thanked Community Bank for the gift and the difference it will make in the lives of children, including those residing in areas without behavioral health care providers.

Mississippi has the third lowest ratio of behavioral health professionals to primary care providers. Of Mississippi’s 82 counties, only 37 have a single practicing psychiatrist or psychologist.

“This very generous gift will broaden the care available to underserved and underprivileged children who have Autism Spectrum Disorder,” Elkin said. “This donation will prime the pump, allowing CAY the seed money to build up our ASD treatment program.”

ASD is a complex neurobiological disorder that usually appears in early childhood. Children with ASD can struggle with focus, social skills, organization, speech and language skills, emotional control and frustration. About one in every 54 American children are diagnosed with ASD, according to 2016 data from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Community Bank’s gift will spark the start of an Applied Behavior Analysis program at CAY. A therapy based on the science of learning and behavior, ABA therapists work to increase helpful behaviors with positive reinforcement and decrease behaviors that are harmful or affect learning. ABA is considered an evidence-based best practice treatment for ASD by the U.S. Surgeon General and the American Psychological Association.

The gift will also help CAY to broaden its telehealth outreach to school districts in the state, as well as reach underserved populations. CAY, through UMMC’s Center for Telehealth, offers behavioral health care programs through schools to reach students while reducing the need for travel.

“There are very few options across the state to treat ASD,” Elkin said, “so this will make behavioral health care available to a greater number of children. Having treatment can make a world of difference, helping children have more interest in people around them and having more focus in school. This gift will enable us to provide care that will result in better lives for children today and as they grow up.”

To support the University of Mississippi Medical Center, visit http://www.umc.edu/givenow/ or contact Meredith Aldridge, director of development for Children’s of Mississippi, at 601-815-7469 or [email protected].

By Annie Oeth, UMMC Public Affairs