Tony Simmons

The Bay Health Foundation (BHF) has awarded a $15,000 grant to the FSU Foundation for ECAP, the Early Childhood Autism Program at FSU Panama City. The funds will allow an expansion of applied behavior analysis (ABA) therapy services for children and young adults with developmental delays or disabilities.

“We are so grateful for the Bay Health Foundation,” said Amy Polick, Ph.D., development director for ECAP and associate dean for academic affairs. ”This is our 10th year partnering together to help families impacted by autism in our community.”

BHF Board of Trustees Chairman Dr. Jim Cook III presented the grant during a luncheon on Thursday, Feb. 8. BHF has been supporting ECAP with grants and scholarships since 2016. This donation will provide continued patient care for existing clients and expansion of services to new patients from the waitlist.

From left are ECAP Clinical Coordinator Dakota Januchowski; ECAP Program Director Emily N. Dickens, Ed.D.;
Associate Dean of Academic Affairs Amy Polick, Ph.D.; FSU Foundation Director of Development-Panama City
Katie May; and Dr. Jim Cook III, chairman of the Bay Health Foundation Board of Trustees.

“We are thankful for the direct benefit to the families we serve, as well as the relationships we've built with other service providers as we work to expand the reach of ECAP and further meet the needs of Bay County,” said Nikki Dickens, Ed.D., the ECAP program director. 

Established in 2001, ECAP is a 501(c)3 early intervention and community outreach program for children diagnosed with (or presenting symptoms of) autism spectrum disorder, Down syndrome, cerebral palsy and intellectual disability. The program helps clients develop language, self-help, academic, communication and social skills through in-home, in-school and in-clinic services.

“I think ECAP recognizes that children with autism grow into young adults who sometimes continue to face challenges,” Dickens said. “These are challenges that we are ready to help them overcome.”

According to the grant document, the funds will support two types of patient care: one-on-one direct ABA therapy between a therapist and a child; and individualized training for children’s parents or caregivers, so they can play an active role and implement strategies at home.

“This increases the impact of the ABA therapy we provide,” Dickens explained. “The behavioral symptoms of autism can be alleviated with ABA, and this type of therapy requires consistency, repetition and endurance in terms of direct patient care.”

Children on the BHF/ECAP scholarship typically receive between four and eight hours of free patient care per week, allowing them to learn and acquire important skills while working toward reductions in problematic behaviors that impede their progress or negatively impact families.
Created in 2012 when LHP Hospital Group and Sacred Heart Health System leased Bay Medical Center in Panama City, Bay Health Foundation’s mission is to promote the health and well-being of Bay County residents. In that time, the foundation’s Grant Committee has awarded $5.8 million to local non-profit health care organizations. This year’s awards totaled $500,000 to 15 area non-profits.

“We are so fortunate to have the Bay Health Foundation helping our community in Bay County,” Polick said. “They have allowed us to maintain scholarship funds that allow us to provide free ABA therapy to children in need.”