The project, “Program for Advancing Childhood Early Intervention (PACE) Scholars Program: Developing an Early Intervention, Related Services Workforce,” will implement a targeted training program to prepare 37 PACE scholars over the course of the five-year grant period. The scholars program collaborates with USD’s Center for Disabilities Leadership in Neurodevelopmental and Related Disorders (LEND) traineeship program and draws support from the Center’s LEND framework.

The state contracts with approximately 80-90 private entities to provide services throughout the 66 counties in the state. Over 70% of these providers are in a handful of the most highly populated counties, which creates a disproportionate amount of available providers in the remaining geographic areas of the state, including tribal reservations.

“The PACE Scholars Program will bolster important South Dakota workforce development efforts through its financial support of occupational, physical, and speech therapy students, as well as student audiologists,” explained the scholarship’s Program Director, Patti Berg-Poppe, Ph.D., MPT. "PACE Scholars will enter early childhood intervention positions ready to practice and prepared to provide excellent, family-centered care for infants and toddlers who have disabilities with high intensity needs.”

Program administrators and discipline leads from USD’s School of Health Sciences are Berg-Poppe, chair of the Department of Physical Therapy; Shana Cerny, OTD, associate professor in the Department of Occupational Therapy; Hsin-yi “Tanya” Liu, DPT, Ph.D., assistant professor in the Department of Physical Therapy; and Megan Johnke, OTD, lecturer in the Department of Occupational Therapy. Discipline leads from USD’s Department of Communication Sciences and Disorders include Lindsey Jorgensen, Au.D., Ph.D., and Shelly Grinde. Marni Johnson, Au.D., and Eric Kurtz will provide administrative support from USD’s Center for Disabilities.

USD will partner in the program with the South Dakota Department of Education (DOE) Birth to Three (B-3) program, South Dakota Early Hearing Detection and Intervention (EHDI) Clinic, USD’s Center for Disabilities B-3 Part C program, and the South Dakota Deaf Blind Program to serve this population of infants and toddlers receiving early intervention.

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