MONEY WILL FOCUS ON CONTINUED DEVELOPMENT OF SOAZ’S INCLUSIVE HEALTH CARE PROGRAMS FOR ITS MORE THAN 21,000 ATHLETES
Governor Doug Ducey today announced a $1 million grant from the State of Arizona that will be gifted to Special Olympics Arizona (SOAZ), a nonprofit organization that provides services to individuals with intellectual disabilities, including physical activity and competition programs, health screenings and fitness programs. The $1 million gift will help SOAZ continue to develop its Inclusive health and wellness programs that are crucial for the more than 21,000 SOAZ athletes statewide.
Specifically, that $1 million can help in the following ways:
- Ensure vital health screening for an additional 1,000 athletes throughout Arizona
- Provide health education to another 1,500 students
- Provide hands-on provider training and experience opportunities for 300 healthcare students and professionals
- Expand critical mental health provider access, screenings and education for people with intellectual and developmental disabilities (IDD)
“With the opening of this new building, Special Olympics Arizona is giving more Arizonans the opportunity to compete in sports, and they’re providing underserved groups with other critical resources that aren’t widely available to them,” Governor Ducey said at a ribbon cutting ceremony for SOAZ’s new state office and distribution center in Goodyear, Ariz. “We are dedicated to helping Special Olympics Arizona in their efforts. I’m excited to announce that we are investing $1 million dollars in the Special Olympics Arizona Healthy Athletes Program to help them expand health services to Arizonans with intellectual and developmental disabilities.”
The health disparity for people with IDD dramatically increased during the COVID-19 pandemic. Many have faced increased physical health and mental health difficulties as a result of the pandemic and many health needs have gone unaddressed. Special Olympics Arizona athletes recently reported experiencing increased acute loneliness, anxiety, stress and social isolation.
“Individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities have a higher prevalence of adverse health conditions and are more likely to have unidentified and untreated health issues. They also have less access to health care services and health promotion programs, experience greater rates of mental health challenges and bullying, and struggle to live independently,” said Special Olympics Arizona President and CEO Jamie Heckerman.
“We can’t thank Governor Ducey and the State of Arizona enough for this generous gift that will provide more Inclusive health programs and assist so many more individuals with IDD to get proper healthcare and treatment to help lead a better quality of life.”
Special Olympics Arizona’s Healthy Athletes Program addresses some of these health care challenges by facilitating free health screenings provided by volunteer clinicians in a variety of disciplines – general health (Health Promotion), mental health (Strong Minds), dental health (Special Smiles), hearing (Healthy Hearing, vision (Opening Eyes), podiatry (Fit Feet), physical therapy (FUNFitness), and sports physicals (Medfest).
The benefits of the Healthy Athletes Program help identify and address health needs of athletes, while providing training for health care students and professionals in caring for people with IDD. There is currently a shortage of health professionals willing or able to treat people with IDD.
Special Olympics Arizona’s Healthy L.E.A.P (Lifestyle, education and Practice) Program is another proven health program that educates students with and without IDD based on four pillars of health – emotional, physical, nutritional, and social wellness. Addressing student social and emotional well-being is critical as Arizona comes out of the pandemic.