When Community Howard Specialty Hospital and Replay Physical Therapy boarded up its doors for good earlier this year, Kokomo resident Naomi Henning said it forced her 3-year-old son Tatum’s occupational therapy appointments out of town.
And there were plenty of other families in that same boat too, a harsh reality of the hole the closures created.
But then came a tremendous opportunity, a state-of-the-art facility geared directly toward fulfilling children’s therapy needs, located right here in the City of Firsts.
It’s called Ivy Rehab for Kids — the only one in the entire state of Indiana — and it opened last month at the Boulevard Crossing shopping center.
Nikki Coomer, a physical therapist and also the clinic’s director, noted that many of the therapists came over from the now-closed Replay and specialty hospital too, creating what she referred to as a “perfect team” at Ivy Rehab for Kids.
“It really is a unique situation,” she said. “I was praying long and hard when we were about to lose our jobs [when the facilities closed]. … The therapy world is very small in Kokomo, and I was praying something could work out because we’d developed so many relationships with families and with each other.”
Providing services like occupational, physical and speech therapy, Ivy Rehab for Kids is basically a “one-stop shop” for progress too, Coomer added.
“There’s currently a huge need for services for kids, and there is consistently more and more of that need too,” she said. “I’ve been practicing for 15 years, and over the years, they’ve found that physical therapy, occupational and speech, we can do so much more than people think. We have a great group of physicians here in town that give referrals, and some of those kids were otherwise just going to go unserved.”
And though many of the children that the therapists work with range in age from birth to age 3, Coomer pointed out that they are seeing a lot of school-aged kids too.
“I think part of it is that the school systems are overloaded,” she said. “Schools are understaffed, and there are a lot of kids that need services there, but they can’t get them because of too many other kids that maybe need more services. ... That’s where we step in and maybe give supplemental, or maybe they just come in here to get all their services.”
Because the therapy — which can range in length from 40 days to sometimes even two years — is about helping set a child up for the rest of their lives, the therapists at Ivy Rehab for Kids noted.
“We have the opportunity to build a foundation for them, so when they get into kindergarten, they won’t be that [percentage of kids] that can’t skip, that can’t gallop, that can’t hop on one leg,” Coomer said. “We have the ability to push them to be on their milestones and be on track.
“And people ask what we do with infants,” she added. “I say, ‘What don’t we do?’ There is so much they do. They’re changing every week, and we’re getting them in here one or two times a week. … It’s the whole picture that we look at, and it’s really setting them up so they’re ready to go.”
Speech therapist Rachel Brutus agreed with Coomer, adding that it’s also a welcome sight to have a facility like Ivy Rehab for Kids so close to home.
“Growing up in Kokomo, it was always a goal of mine to work for an organization that gave back to the community,” Brutus said. “I feel like that’s why we’re all here. That’s what we all want to do. We want to give back to the community in some way. And every day, we get to work one on one with little kids and their families. But also, we’re promoting progress and meeting those goals. We’re seeing them do things for the first time. It’s just really rewarding to be that involved and that invested in a family together.”
And though Ivy Rehab for Kids has just been open a little over a month, employees hope the facility has an impact on local children for years to come.
“Our goal is to be the number one provider in Central Indiana,” Coomer said. “And my hope is that we outgrow this facility. By the year mark, I hope we’re saying ‘Gosh, we need a bigger space.’ … Because we know there’s a need. … I like the Ivy statement. It says ‘Providing big care for our littlest patients.’ And that’s exactly what we’re doing here.”
For more information on Ivy Rehab for Kids, visit its Facebook page by searching for “Ivy Rehab Kokomo Kids” or by calling 765-416-8480.