UNO Therapy Program In Danger

By: Jake Wasikowski
By: Jake Wasikowski

The recreational therapy at UNO is the only specialization of its kind in the state. And now some are standing up for those who may not be able to stand up for themselves.

“He just had lost all of his will to live,” Kathy Kensinger said.

Kathy and her husband Chuck Kensinger brought their elderly father to Nebraska to get better care three years ago. Since then, he’s been involved in recreational therapy, which helped improve his wellness using his own recreational interests.

“His general health is just so much better because he has a reason to get up in the morning,” Chuck said.

“He’s enjoying life and at 89 years old, he’s very healthy now,” Kathy said.

Rec therapy is used for nursing home patients across the state, as well as veterans and people with severe disabilities who may not feel they can live a normal life. But UNO has decided to phase out the specialization over the next few years.

Heather Holmes with recreational therapy and activities at Good Samaritan Society Millard said the need for recreational therapy is rapidly increasing. It’s estimated 15 new rec therapists will be in demand per year in Nebraska alone. Most of those therapists come from UNO.

"So if we lose that specialization in Nebraska, where are those rec therapists going to come from?” Holmes said. “Who’s going to provide that therapy to those citizens who need rehab?”

UNO Administrators tell them low enrollment numbers is a main reason, though students have consistently attended R-T classes since 2004. Chancellor Christensen and UNO wouldn’t comment or make a statement to WOWT on the issue.

But therapists say they’ll continue to fight for those who are most vulnerable in our community.

“We’re the voice for them so that everyday, they can say, ‘I am still a vital person with interests and needs that can be met,'” said Cati Demasi, the Durham Center Coordinator for Quality Living Inc.

It’s also said that another reason for the specialization being cut is money. But budget records show that it is a very small fraction of the funds for what can prove to be a large benefit. The proposal was moved to the University of Nebraska Board of Regents and will be discussed in the fall.

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