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UF Health's new autism center to reduce waiting time

The Gainesville Sun - 2/21/2020

Feb. 21--A new $500,000 autism and neurodevelopment center will officially open Friday and University of Florida Health officials say it will significantly reduce the time some families spend waiting to get help.

UF Health officials marked the 15,000-square-foot center's opening at a ribbon-cutting ceremony Thursday, the day before the facility begins accepting new patients.

"This really is a one-stop shop for families to get information and services," said Carol Matthews, the center's interim director. "Rather than going to multiple places, they can get their services here."

The Center for Autism and Neurodevelopment offers a range of programs and caretakers, from speech-language pathologists to physical therapists. The facility includes a gym with a rock-climbing wall, swings and touch pads, and rooms for clinical/behavioral intervention research.

Every inch of the hub, which accommodates children and adults, has been designed with autism and neurodiverse disabilities in mind, down to the muted brown-and-green wall paint in the waiting room.

"It's a low-stress environment that integrates multiple services," Matthews said.

The center, at 4101 NW 89th Blvd., has been six months in the making. The former rehab facility that held the space before was relocated a year ago.

Matthews estimated the center will lower the hospital's waiting list for families from three years to nine months.

Ed Jimenez, CEO of UF Health Shands, said having the services under one roof is groundbreaking.

"We will enhance the care for our patients," he said. "We will empower families with more and more information. When we have all of these experts together that have dialogue they will create so much momentum. And there's no question that by making things a little less stressful for families, we will enhance the patient experience."

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