Person behind a podum with a line of people standing to the side and a TV camera pointed at the podium
Russell Sage College President Christopher Ames addresses the media and audience at the announcement of plans to open The Speech and Language Center at Russell Sage and to launch academic programs in communication sciences and disorders beginning in 2025 (undergraduate) and 2029 (graduate) pending state and accrediting body approvals. (Photo by Madison Scisci/Russell Sage College Marketing and Communications)

Furthering its commitment to the health professions and education, Russell Sage College has hired three faculty from The College of Saint Rose to launch a speech therapy clinic July 8 and begin undergraduate and graduate programs in communication sciences and disorders in 2025 and 2029 respectively. 

Saint Rose was a pioneer in the field of speech therapy, and there are no other programs in the region following the closure of Saint Rose at the end of June.

“Russell Sage already has a strong reputation in occupational and physical therapy, nursing, and education – all fields that intersect with speech-language pathology,” said Russell Sage President Christopher Ames. “This was a natural fit for us. It is also critical that the pioneering work in the area of speech-language pathology, which drew world-renowned faculty to Saint Rose and even more importantly, profoundly touched the daily lives of so many people, be preserved. Hospitals, rehabilitation centers, and schools all need speech-language pathologists. Losing the local pipeline of graduates in this field would be devastating. We’re committed to building healthy communities, and we couldn’t let these programs fade away.”

The clinic, to be housed in the Health Sciences building on Russell Sage’s Albany campus, will be called The Speech and Language Center at Russell Sage. The new and evolving speech and language services will start with The Aphasia Center, which will support those with difficulty communicating after strokes, brain injuries, or other neurological conditions. It will also include the Gender-Affirming Voice Program, which helps those in transition modify their voices to match their identities. When services are fully up and running, the clinic will accept Medicaid TBI Waiver and self-payment.

The clinic will not immediately have all the services previously offered by Saint Rose, including the diagnosis and treatment of speech and language disorders and programs for individuals who stutter. A significant financial investment is needed to underwrite those programs, and Russell Sage welcomes interested community partners to contact the college about funding opportunities.

The Pauline K. Winkler Speech and Hearing Clinic at Saint Rose provided over 200 weekly visits, with clients ranging in age from birth to geriatric. The Neuro Service Clinic at Saint Rose previously served 60 clients per week, about 30 with Aphasia. Russell Sage anticipates a roster of more than 30 clients this summer with more to come as the institution hires a Personal Care Assistant, allowing the college to expand the reach of the clinic to those on the New York State Department of Health TBI Medicaid Waiver in the Capital Region and North Country pending approval.

“We are pleased and grateful to be joining the Russell Sage College community and to continue the long tradition of preparing speech-language pathologists and serving Capital Region clients and their families,” said Julie Hart, former director of TBI Medicaid Waiver Services at Saint Rose, who will begin her work at Russell Sage in July. Joining her at Russell Sage this fall are former chairs of the communication sciences and disorders department at Saint Rose and professors of communication sciences and disorders, Jack Pickering and Dave DeBonis.

“We also look forward to the exciting opportunities for collaboration among existing programs at Russell Sage in healthcare and education,” Hart said.

Healthcare providers, including St. Peter’s Health Partners, reached out to Russell Sage after the Saint Rose closure announcement, concerned that a critical supplier of speech-language pathologists would be lost as no other institutions in the greater Capital Region offer these degree programs. That also created difficulty for Saint Rose in finding a nearby teach-out partner for current students.

“The College of Saint Rose was a pillar of speech therapy education in our community for decades, and its closure would have created a tremendous void in the Capital Region. We are so pleased that Russell Sage College has committed to assuming the programming and personnel from this highly regarded program,” said Kristin Seaburg, executive director of therapy for St. Peter’s Health Partners. “St. Peter’s is one of the largest employers of speech therapists in the area, so we are acutely aware of how demand for their services has grown exponentially in recent years, especially post-pandemic. We are grateful to Sage for their commitment to recruiting and educating the next generation of speech therapists, while building on their own storied legacy of preparing students for distinguished careers in the health sciences and nursing.”

Russell Sage pursued whether it could transfer the programs over from Saint Rose and provide a local teach-out option, but that was not possible under the guidelines of the New York State Education Department and the accrediting body for speech-language pathology programs, the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association (ASHA).

So college officials focused on ensuring a local source for speech-language pathology graduates in the future. A Bachelor of Science in Communication Sciences and Disorders will launch in fall 2025, pending approval from the New York State Education Department. 

Because a graduate program in the field leads to national, professional certification, programs must be accredited by the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association (ASHA), and new degree programs must wait for available “slots” from ASHA. The next available slot is in 2029-2030, and Russell Sage has already submitted an application for that slot. Launching the graduate program in 2029-2030 still allows the first graduates of the new bachelor’s program to continue with their speech-language pathology graduate studies at Russell Sage.

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