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Upstate Medical University opens Golisano Center for Special Needs

By Eric Reinhardt (


The multi-sensory room in Upstate Medical University’s new Golisano Center for Special Needs. The center provides medical and behavioral care for children and adolescents with many types of intellectual and developmental disabilities. (PHOTO CREDIT: UPSTATE MEDICAL UNIVERSITY WEBSITE)

SYRACUSE, N.Y. — Upstate Medical University has opened the Golisano Center for Special Needs, which it says is designed to streamline autism care for children in the region.

The center provides medical and behavioral care for children and adolescents with many types of intellectual and developmental disabilities, according to Upstate.

The center involves several departments and specialty areas located at a handful of Upstate locations. The newest is a fully renovated space inside Madison-Irving Medical Center at 475 Irving Ave. in Syracuse.

Thomas Golisano, founder of Rochester–based Paychex, donated $3 million for the center and the Upstate Foundation continues to raise funds to support and expand its services, Upstate Medical University said in a release.

Upstate said that combining services for children with intellectual and developmental disabilities under one umbrella has been the “long-time goal” of Henry Roane, the center’s executive director. Roane is also a professor of pediatrics and division chief of the Center for Development, Behavior and Genetics at Upstate.

“When you think about developmental or physical disabilities, they’re not owned by one discipline,” Roane said. “But a child with autism or a child with cerebral palsy needs help from medicine and speech therapists and occupational therapists and psychologists. From a family’s perspective having the least amount of fragmentation possible to get that care is really what needs to be the guiding principle and that hasn’t existed in Central New York before now.”

A focus of the new center is to cut down on the amount of time it takes for families to obtain an appointment and see a doctor. Funding for the new center has allowed Roane to hire eight new staff members, which has increased services and cut wait times in half in some areas, he noted.

The additional employees have also allowed the center to better triage patients, Roane said. So when a parent or guardian calls or is referred to the center, his staff can direct the caregiver to the best treatment options and “help navigate what can be a complex system.”

“I don’t want a parent to have a diagnosis for their child and then have to hunt down where they’re going to get services and how this is all going to work,” he said. “We should do that for them and make this as easy as possible.”

The Golisano Center for Special Needs is the “only one in the region” and provides Central New York with services that are available in other major metropolitan areas, Roane contended.

“The integration of things like training the next generation of providers and doing NIH-funded research are examples of the breadth of work we’re doing beyond clinical services that puts us on par with major medical centers around the country,” Roane said. “We now have something here that’s a miniature version of what John’s Hopkins has or what Emory University has. It’s a miniature version because we’re a smaller community but the depth and variety of services we now offer make us really unique.”


The Golisano Center for Special Needs has new or expanded features that include an additional physical therapist for the inclusive fitness and adaptive design program, which Dr. Nienke Dosa operates. 

That’s in addition to a new staff member to work with Dr. Dosa on sensory motor processing and sensory motor play. The center also added a nurse practitioner. 

And the center has a new equipment navigator who will help identify pediatric equipment needs and trends, along with two new post-doctorate fellows to work in the related research lab.

A new feeding-disorder specialist will also allow Upstate to double the capacity of the clinic. Roane will work with the specialist to add a new feeding therapy and general language-skills development program later this year.

The center is also partnering with local nonprofit Access CNY to create an equipment loan closet for patients, Upstate said.

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