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The Visionary Power of Philanthropy: Philanthropist’s gift spurs grant from Attorney General

Philanthropy has the power to initiate visionary programs and change patients’ lives, and a recent gift to Tufts Medical Center from Boston philanthropists Paul and Susan Weisman provides the perfect example of this.

In 2011, the Weismans met with Floating Hospital experts from the Department of Child & Adolescent Psychiatry and the Center for Children with Special Needs (CCSN) to learn more about their work in autism, a condition that is increasing at an alarming rate. Inspired by the team’s unique, collaborative proposal—along with their commitment to create an “autism medical home”— the Weisman family donated $200,000 to establish the Autism Behavioral Consultation (ABC) Program.

Launched in late 2012, the ABC Program is a pioneering, interdisciplinary clinic in which doctors from the fields of Psychiatry, Psychology, and Developmental-Behavioral Pediatrics—anchored by an autism specialist— focus on  youth with autism ages 6-22 for whom standard medical, therapeutic, and educational treatments have not been successful. Using a groundbreaking approach, the ABC team collaborates with the family, the school, the pediatrician, and other community providers to determine the possible causes for the patient’s challenges. The team then integrates treatment with all of the involved providers to develop the youth’s needed skills and to improve functioning.

One family recently said of the ABC Program: “The team has been very innovative in finding ways to help our son. We have a complex family dynamic, and the ABC team has been able to take the time to troubleshoot difficulties and come up with new approaches for us to try. One of the most impressive parts of the program is that the doctors gave our son the  encouragement and a safe place to express angry feelings, which has opened up a whole new level of communication with him.”

The Weismans’ belief in the ABC Program—and subsequent gift to create it—positioned Tufts Medical Center to be awarded a highly competitive evaluation grant of $250,000 in 2014 from the Office of the Attorney General. The purpose of the grant is to “access and measure the benefits of, providing behavioral health services in Massachusetts” and the ABC Program will do so by striving toward three objectives: 1.) to increase health and well-being; 2.) to improve quality of care; and 3.) to reduce costs. From a kernel of an idea nurtured by the Weisman family, a program has bloomed at Tufts Medical Center which will soon be flowering into a comprehensive, research-based behavioral health treatment center for youth with autism. Our clinicians are deeply grateful to the Weismans for their confidence in their work, and their generosity in supporting our patients.

John Leung, MD a food allergist at Tufts Medical Center, conducting research.

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