Project CARAT

Students, faculty, and staff at the University of Kentucky Center of Excellence in Rural Health are working to establish and grow a unique and valuable program for the people of rural Kentucky.  Project CARAT (Coordinating and Assisting the Re-use of Assistive Technology), a program that collects and refurbishes durable medical equipment and distributes it to people who cannot afford it, is setting up a full-service collection and distribution site at the UK Center of Excellence in Rural Health in Hazard.

Project CARAT, funded in part by the federal Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA), is a partnership between UK and agencies across the state to provide durable medical equipment to individuals in need.  The site collects durable medical equipment, repairs, cleans, and refurbishes it, and lists it on a website which can be accessed by medical providers, community health workers, and the general public.  Individuals may request items from the inventory for temporary or long-term use, at a dramatically discounted cost or, in many cases, at no cost to them, in exchange for a small donation to help keep Project CARAT going.

According to Dr. Patrick Kitzman, “The goal of Project CARAT is to make Assistive Technology and Durable Medical Equipment more accessible to those who need it in rural Kentucky. In order to make this happen, Project CARAT is partnering with agencies across the state. We'll take donated equipment, clean it, make repairs if we need to, and then redistribute it to people who need it in exchange for a small donation. If you live in rural Kentucky and need equipment, or have equipment you'd like to donate, please let us know!”

Under the direction of Dr. Kitzman and partners across the state, students from the UK Doctor of Physical Therapy program in Hazard, along with the student services staff, are currently being trained in the cleaning and refurbishing process.  They will help maintain the inventory website, field requests, accept donated equipment, place equipment with those who need it, and help assess the effectiveness of the program.  Through this process, students not only provide an important and valuable public service, but they also learn to perform maintenance and repairs on assistive technology that many of their patients will be using.  This skill and knowledge base will allow the physical therapists to help patients address mechanical issues with their wheelchairs, walkers, and other assistive equipment, saving patients and healthcare providers valuable time and resources.

“We are proud to have students at the UK Center in Hazard who are willing to give their time and energy to such a worthy endeavor that supports the Center’s mission of improving the lives of rural Kentuckians through service, education, research, and community engagement,” said LeeAnn Helton, Student Services director.  “These students don’t have to participate; they choose to.  And in choosing to help others, they grow in both skill and in compassion, and will inevitably become better professionals as a result.”

For more information about Project CARAT, visit the website at http://www.katsnet.org/projectCARAT/