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Adaptive Program to Help Disabled Vets Get Active

By Jody Record, Campus Journal Editor
April 18, 2007

Doug Prince Photo, Northeast Passage Director Jill Gravink and Congresswoman Carol Shea-Porter

A program developed at Northeast Passage is an example of the kinds of services the Wounded Warrior Assistance Act could provide to help disabled soldiers injured in Iraq lead full lives.

U.S. Congresswoman Carol Shea-Porter made the connection between the legislation and PATH (Promoting Access, Transition and Health) during a visit to Northeast Passage last week.

Founded in 1990, Northeast Passage is the UNH-based organization that promotes adaptive sports experiences for people with disabilities by creating an environment where they can access recreation in ways similar to their peers. NEP fosters independence through education and problem solving.

PATH was launched by NEP eight years ago primarily to aid people with spinal cord injuries. In 2004, Martin’s Point Health Care picked up the program and since that time, they have been using PATH with retired disabled military personnel. NEP plans to expand the program to include returning Iraq War veterans.

“We’re trying to advance the program with current veterans,” says NEP founder and director Jill Gravink. “We can’t allow their disabilities to be what defines them.”

Shea-Porter had praise for the PATH program and noted it would help returning injured soldiers realize there is still “so much still there.” The Wound Warriors bill resulted, she said, from soldiers who needed care “falling through the cracks” at Walter Reed Army Medical Center in Washington, D.C.

“We will have people with injuries coming back to this country, but they're not injuries, they are people with injuries," Shea-Porter said. "We have an obligation ... not to leave them behind."

One of the key components of the new bill calls for caseworkers to work with no more than 17 soldiers at a time. As of January, there are at least 500 amputees who lost limbs while fighting in Iraq.

“Soldiers are surviving at a greater rate than ever before,” says Gravink. “We see this as an opportunity to provide services to help veterans with disabilities transition to their home communities and live healthier lives with their disabilities.”

Information on Northeast Passage can be found at www.nepassage.org.

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