LEXINGTON, Ky. − Many people in the Appalachian region of Kentucky have little or no access to health insurance to assist in paying for medical equipment like walkers, wheelchairs, canes, or crutches. A group of faculty and students at the University of Kentucky College of Health Sciences are taking part in a project to bring in used medical equipment, clean and repair it, and distribute it to the people who need it.
This project, Coordinating and Assisting the Reuse of Assistive Technology (CARAT), began in May 2012 with a $450,000, three-year grant from the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services.
“Assistive Technology recycling is done across the United States and Medicaid equipment recycling is done in a few places, but nowhere are they using this service-learning type of model that we are using here in Kentucky,” said Carol Weber, project coordinator for CARAT in the Kentucky Office of Vocational Rehabilitation.
CARAT partners include the Kentucky Office of Vocational Rehabilitation, the Kentucky Appalachian Rural Rehabilitation Network (KARRN) based at UK, and the Bluegrass Technology Center.
KARRN is an NIH-funded project to support people in Eastern Kentucky returning home after stroke, brain or spinal cord injuries and is a partner of the Center for Excellence in Rural Health in Hazard.
The Center for Excellence in Rural Health in Hazard is serving as the Southeast refurbishing site for CARAT and physical therapy students there manage the Hazard part of the program, said Patrick Kitzman, associate professor in the UK Physical Therapy and Rehabilitation Sciences Doctoral Program. "This project gives the students a great opportunity for gaining leadership skills in running a part of this project, gaining experience in refurbishing durable medical equipment, and providing a service to their community," he said.
Two of those physical therapy students, Devon Burchett and Jessica Bickwermert, are excited to give back and get hands-on training that will help them in their careers.
“We’ve brought in used equipment, we have cleaned them, we’ve replaced parts. I come from rural town so it feels good to be able to give back to those who have provided for me. It just feels good to know that we are helping to improve someone’s quality of life,” said Burchett.
“We’re going to know how to fix the equipment ourselves if problems arise while we’re with patients," Bickwermert added. "Dr. Kitzman’s already told us about things that he’s gone through as a physical therapist himself and how he’s had to make those minor adjustments.”
CARAT’s database of no-cost or low-cost refurbished items, including walkers, wheelchairs, scooters, canes, quad canes, crutches, and hospital beds, can be accessed at katsnet.at4all.com.