NACOGDOCHES, Texas — Faculty and staff from several Stephen F. Austin State University programs worked together to create the Nacogdoches Parkinson’s Support Group, which will meet once a month at Christ Episcopal Church, located at 1430 Mound St.
The first meeting is from 5:30 to 6:30 p.m. April 13, with the group set to meet on the second Thursday of the month moving forward. Those diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease as well as their loved ones are invited to the meetings.
“There’s a need for a Parkinson’s disease support group in this area because the closest ones are in Tyler and Longview,” said Deena Petersen, clinic director for SFA’s Stanley Center for Speech and Language Disorders who was instrumental in the group’s creation. “Those with the disease will benefit from the support of others dealing with the same issues. We want spouses and loved ones to come and be a part of this because they also are affected.”
The support group is the result of collaboration by faculty and staff from two programs in the James I. Perkins College of Education’s Department of Human Services and Educational Leadership — speech-language pathology and professional counseling — and the School of Social Work in the College of Liberal and Applied Arts.
Petersen said organizers would like to attract at least two dozen people to the meetings. According to research, there’s a demand for such gatherings. East Texas has a high rate for Parkinson’s disease, with Tyler neurologist Dr. George Plotkin calling the area the “Parkinson’s Belt.”
Citing research, Petersen said the disease is the second most common neurodegenerative disease after Alzheimer’s. Nearly 90,000 people in the U.S. are diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease each year, and more than 10 million people worldwide are living with it.
Petersen said the formation of the group was an outgrowth of the services offered through the Stanley Center for Speech and Language Disorders.
“We currently have a speech program for a group of clients with Parkinson’s disease,” she said. “They would like to build relationships with others with the disease.”