BATON ROUGE, LA (WAFB) - ALS patients in the Baton Rouge area no longer have to be driven long distances to be treated for the degenerative nervous disease. Our Lady of the Lake Physician Group ALS Clinic opened its doors for the first time Friday, welcoming their first three patients.
It's the first clinic of its kind in the Baton Rouge metro area that provides the highly specialized care that addresses the diverse needs of patients diagnosed with ALS, also known as amyotrophic lateral sclerosis or Lou Gehrig's disease. The center also addresses the needs of patients' families.
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Since ALS patients may need care from as many as five to seven different physicians, the new clinic will allow patients to meet with a team of specialists at one time instead of having to make several appointments.
ALS Clinic Specialists:
- physical therapy
- occupational therapy
- respiratory therapy
- speech therapy
- supportive care
"It's one stop shopping. So rather than having to go to multiple appointments on multiple days and having caregivers transporting you to and from, it's all right here in one spot. It means everything to have one right here in Baton Rouge," said Annie Chatellier, a Baton Rouge resident and an Our Lady of the Lake team member diagnosed with ALS in 2015.
It's a model championed by Chatellier, who says the concept reflects best practices from renowned clinics across the U.S.
For the past three years, Chatellier has been traveling all the way to Houston to receive care and treatment. That's nearly five hours there, spending the full day in clinic, then five hours back home. Now, she no longer has to make the lengthy trip.
"It is very difficult for patients with ALS to travel, so this clinic will mean a great deal to patients who will no longer have to seek care outside of their community," said Stephen Brierre, MD, medical director of the Our Lady of the Lake Physician Group ALS Clinic.
Our Lady of the Lake spent the last year and a half making this clinic come to life, rounding up the right physicians, equipment, and care for ALS patients living in the region.
"When you have multiple doctors in one clinic who are all centered on one disease and treating the whole patient I think it's a big step forward for us. It allows us to be a catchment area for not only Baton Rouge, but all of the surrounding area," said Dr. Brierre.
Patients will attend the clinic on the second Friday of each month. The delivery model for care emphasizes interaction with other patients and their caregivers in a group environment to provide social support in addition to their medical care.
"Instead of patients being in an exam room with different specialists rotating in and out, the patients will be in one large room where specialists can visit among them in an energetic, nurturing atmosphere," said Dr. Brierre.
There is no known cause or cure for ALS. It is a progressive and neurodegenerative disease in which the cells that control voluntary muscle movement die.
- progressive muscle weakness
- muscle wasting
- weight loss
- difficulty speaking or swallowing
- shortness of breath
- difficulty controlling emotions
The facility will be able to serve more than 50 patients. Those who have already been diagnosed with ALS can be referred by their physician to this clinic for care.