WEST ORANGE, N.J., May 5, 2016 (GLOBE NEWSWIRE) -- Kessler Foundation was awarded a $298,000 grant by the Craig H. Neilsen Foundation to fund research on vocational services aimed at improving employment outcomes after spinal cord injury (SCI). Trevor Dyson-Hudson, M.D., director of SCI Research and John O'Neill, Ph.D., director of Disability & Employment Research at Kessler Foundation, will collaborate with Steven Kirshblum, M.D., medical director and director of SCI Services at Kessler Institute for Rehabilitation, to establish a program that will initiate vocational services during an individual's inpatient stay with the goal of facilitating the return to competitive employment following discharge. The study includes the participation of the New Jersey Division of Vocational Rehabilitation Services and United Spinal Association.   
For individuals with SCI, maintaining employment means independence, greater social interaction and personal/professional satisfaction, and improved quality of life. Despite advances in rehabilitative care, employment rates remain extremely low in the SCI population.
One of the unique components of this program is the addition of a "resource facilitator" to the Kessler Institute SCI team. This individual will help coordinate various employment-related services as patients transition back into the community and eventually, to competitive employment.
Over the years, hospital stays for newly injured persons with SCI have become increasingly shorter, with the focus more on the physical, psychological and emotional aspects of rehabilitation. This means that less time is devoted to discussing employment options before patients are discharged from the hospital.  The new resource facilitator will meet with patients during their stay and follow-up with them after discharge to help coordinate their vocational rehabilitation needs, services and employment opportunities.   
"Very little investigation has been done to find out what types of services would help individuals return to the workplace," noted Dr. O'Neill.  "This study, which is based on early intervention and extended vocational rehabilitation services, will give us a practical perspective on the optimal approach for people recovering from spinal cord injury."
Fifty newly injured individuals with SCI will begin receiving vocational services during their inpatient rehabilitation at Kessler Institute. After discharge, they will continue to be followed by the resource facilitator, as well as peer employment mentors, for two years.  According to Dr. Kirshblum, "This approach is expected help people with spinal cord injury return to competitive employment. Our goal is to place 30 individuals, and have the program be self-sustaining after three years. If the study yields positive results, we will encourage the adoption of similar programs nationwide."
About Craig H. Neilsen Foundation
The Craig H. Neilsen Foundation is dedicated to supporting research and innovative rehabilitation programs to improve the quality of life for those with SCI. Along with supporting researchers in the field of SCI, the Foundation also offers grants to qualifying non-profit §501(c)(3) organizations that assist people living with SCI.
About Kessler Foundation
Kessler Foundation, a major nonprofit organization in the field of disability, is a global leader in rehabilitation research that seeks to improve cognition, mobility and long-term outcomes, including employment, for people with neurological disabilities caused by diseases and injuries of the brain and spinal cord. Kessler Foundation leads the nation in funding innovative programs that expand opportunities for employment for people with disabilities. For more information, visit KesslerFoundation.org.


Carolann Murphy, PA; 973.324.8382; CMurphy@KesslerFoundation.org
About Kessler Institute
Kessler Institute for Rehabilitation, in collaboration with Kessler Foundation, is one of only eight federally-designated Model Systems for the treatment and research of both spinal cord and traumatic brain injuries, and also leads the field in stroke, neurological diseases, amputation, orthopedic trauma, cancer and cardiac rehabilitation. Top-ranked by U.S. News & World Report for 23 years, Kessler has three hospital campuses in West Orange, Saddle Brook and Chester, N.J., and more than 95 outpatient centers throughout the state.  For more information, visit www.kessler-rehab.com.

Carolann Murphy