Students from the Highlands Hospital Austism Center cut the ribbon for their new school. The move to the former Zachariah Connell Elementary School will provide opportunities for the school to accept more students and provide them with more resources.
The ribbon cutting for the Highlands Hospital Center for Health and Community Impact was no ordinary ribbon cutting. It was not the dignitaries, not the donors, not the politicians who were called forward to hold and cut the ceremonial ribbon. “We’re going to have the students come up and do the cutting for us,” said Michael Jordan, chairman of the board of trustees of the hospital.
Jordan Moran, director of the Highlands Hospital Autism Center/School, said she has been at the center since 2013 and became director in 2015, overseeing the old school on Breakneck Road, which had a maximum capacity of 17 students. She said the ribbon cutting at the new site in the former Zachariah Connell Elementary School is a fulfillment of her dream for the program. Moran said everything done at the school is about the children. “I commit to you that we will put their needs first every day,” Moran said.
Moran said the school will open with 24 students and has the capacity to increase to 72 eventually, still just a drop in the bucket of what may be needed in Fayette County.
“In 2010 there were 500 children in Fayette County with autism. I’m sure it is higher now,” Moran said.
The school features an indoor recess area and Moran said it will also include a fundamentals of living area as well as art and music areas, none of which was possible in the cramped facilities on Breakneck Road. Moran said the school and hospital received several major grants, including one from the Highmark Foundation, which made the renovations possible.
The Rev. Bob Lubic, who gave the blessing of the center, actually attended kindergarten in the renovated building which he said he was grateful to see repurposed for the community.
“We are grateful that the good work Highlands Hospital is able to do in autism is going to be able to expand and grow in other areas of wellness for the community,” Lubic said.
The lower level of the building will feature a blended model of care medical wing with primary, gynecological and behavioral health care services in an integrative care environment.
John Andursky, chief executive officer of Highlands Hospital, said the blended care model best meets the needs of the community.“This is going to enhance the services that we provide,” Andursky said. While integrative medicine services such as acupuncture and other alternative therapies not generally covered by the insurance industry will not be offered at this time, Andursky said other elements will be part of the experience for patients.
“Everything is to help in the healing process. The aesthetics are part of it,” said Vicki Meier, the spokeswoman for the hospital. Meier said everything from aromatherapy to the art chosen for the walls is part of the integrative medicine process for the suite of offices which include primary care and gynecological services, including a nurse-midwife and behavioral health services.
BY CHRISTINE HAINES
Christine Haines is a Daily Courier staff writer.
She can be reached at 724- 628-2000, ext. 116,