Al Sigl Community of Agencies, AutismUp and CP Rochester recently announced plans to build Golisano Autism Center Rochester to expand and enhance autism services that serve more than 10,000 people diagnosed with autism in Greater Rochester.
The new center will be named for philanthropist and Paychex and Golisano Foundation chairman Tom Golisano, who is making a matching challenge grant of $2.5 million to help build the center.
“Our heartfelt thanks goes to Tom Golisano, Ann Costello and the Golisano Foundation board of trustees for believing in our vision to support the enhancement and expansion of autism services in our community,” said Mary Walsh Boatfield, president and CEO of CP Rochester.
The Golisano Autism Center Rochester, located on South Avenue near Science Parkway, will include shared program spaces, a sensory gym, classrooms and therapy rooms. The total construction cost for the 25,000 square foot building is $5 million. Groundbreaking is expected to start in the fall and its opening is targeted for fall 2018.
“I am pleased to provide a challenge grant of $2.5 million to help build this unique collaborative center, which will bring together a wide array of coordinated services and expertise under one roof,” Golisano said. “The center will represent a significant improvement in how people with autism and their families can get the services they need over the course of their lifetimes. I hope that my gift will inspire others to join me and contribute in a meaningful way to this important endeavor.”
The first major gift toward the anticipated two-year challenge comes from the Golisano Foundation with $500,000, making the total commitment-to-date $3 million.
The center will co-locate and coordinate resources offered by multiple autism providers, each of which has specialized areas of expertise. This model emphasizes collaboration among autism-specific programs in the community.
The proximity of the center to related medical services will ensure ease of access for thousands of families seeking autism services.
The center will provide services for infants, toddlers, youth, teens and adults, such as behavioral and primary care supports; respite; community habilitation; social, recreational and therapeutic services; and a housing and employment liaison.
School-age instruction developed specifically for individuals with autism will be provided by Mary Cariola Children’s Center. Al Sigl, AutismUp and CP Rochester will coordinate other affiliate autism service agencies to be housed at the center.
“We’re excited to partner on this much-needed project for our community and are grateful to Tom Golisano for helping to make it a reality,” said Sarah Milko, executive director of AutismUp. “The opportunity to coordinate and customize autism-specific services and prepare for the next stage of life together under one roof will be a dream come true for families. As a parent of a child with autism, I know how exhausting and confusing it can be to go from place to place for services.”
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, one in 68 has been identified with autism spectrum disorder. ASD is a lifelong developmental disability diagnosed in ages 2-5 that impacts communication, interaction, behaviors and learning in different ways and requires a unique approach to support services. An estimated 10,000 residents live with autism in Greater Rochester.
“This innovative model for delivering autism-based services will be unlike anything else in our region,” said Thomas O’Connor, president of Al Sigl Community of Agencies. “We anticipate that this model will be looked at on a national level and will eventually be the the go-to model for how a community prepares individuals with ASD for a successful and fulfilling life.”