On Wednesday, October 19th, Pikeville Medical Center (PMC) hosted a ribbon cutting ceremony to celebrate the grand opening of its new Appalachian Valley Autism (AVA) Center location in Prestonsburg. Governor Andy Beshear, Congressman Hal Rogers and various state and local officials were among those in attendance to celebrate this milestone.

“The Appalachian Valley Autism Center is a world-class facility that will allow our Kentucky families to access the individualized care and support they deserve without having to travel out of state,” said Gov. Andy Beshear. “Facilities like these can be life-changing for Kentuckians who need this care. As Governor, but also a dad to two young kids, it brings me great pride to see the progress we are making when it comes to quality health care. Thank you to Pikeville Medical Center for being there for the people of Eastern Kentucky and beyond.”

In May of 2020, PMC opened the original AVA Center location in Pikeville, the first comprehensive facility of its kind in the region offering Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA), speech, occupational and feeding therapies for children on the autism spectrum. Almost immediately after opening its doors, the AVA Center was faced with the need for expansion. It is now a four-story, 27,000 square foot ocean-themed oasis featuring autism-friendly spaces with close attention to texture, acoustics and lighting conditions. The structure consists of multiple learning rooms, a specially designed gym and a special sensory stimulation room and is the largest center of its kind in the nation.

On October 24th, PMC will welcome learners to the new 5,500 sq. ft. satellite center in downtown Prestonsburg to accommodate the growing need for autism services in Eastern Kentucky. With a current waiting list of more than 500 learners, expansion efforts are necessary, and the AVA Center is enrolling learners as space becomes available.

“Since opening the AVA Center, we have been overwhelmed with the great need for these services in the Appalachian region,” said PMC President and CEO Donovan Blackburn. “We are excited to have the opportunity to open our first satellite location in Floyd County. Our goal is to help children on the autism spectrum reach their fullest potential, especially during the crucial developmental years between ages two and 12.”

The new Prestonsburg AVA Center also features a colorful ocean theme with 12 multiple learning rooms, a feeding room and two specially designed sensory stimulation activity rooms. The center will allow PMC therapists to provide services for 24 additional learners, offering the same type of specialized services that are available at the Pikeville location.

“We are not only celebrating new jobs and new medical resources for families who are desperate for answers and treatment for children with autism, but this is a celebration of a little girl named Ava, and the impact her story is having on our region,” said Congressman Hal Rogers, Dean of the U.S. House of Representatives. “Pikeville’s success is now Prestonsburg’s success and that’s ultimately our goal – to continue fostering regional collaboration for the benefit of the people we serve.”

At the AVA Center, each learner has a dedicated therapist who provides ongoing assessment and evaluation of his or her progress and is responsible for running the child’s individualized program. The AVA Center also offers the Autism Diagnostic Observation Schedule™ (ADOS™-2). During an ADOS assessment, a specialist interacts directly with the child in social and play activities to accurately assess and diagnose autism spectrum disorder across age, developmental level and language skills.

Soon after the opening of the new location, the AVA Center plans to provide services for 108 learners in Pikeville and an additional 24 in Prestonsburg using the fundamental principles of Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA). The Pikeville campus has created over 50 jobs and the new Prestonsburg center will create approximately 16 additional positions, all eligible for PMC’s robust benefits package. The new positions include Board-Certified Behavior Analysts (BCBA), Registered Behavior Technicians, a nurse practitioner and more.

For more information, visit https://www.pikevillehospital.org/avacenter/