Worth Every Penny Lisa Stephens is the answer for people who need—but can’t afford—speech-language treatment. In the Limelight
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In the Limelight  |   July 01, 2014
Worth Every Penny
Author Notes
  • Kellie Rowden-Racette is the print and online editor of The ASHA Leader. krowden-racette@asha.org
    Kellie Rowden-Racette is the print and online editor of The ASHA Leader. krowden-racette@asha.org×
Article Information
Speech, Voice & Prosodic Disorders / In the Limelight
In the Limelight   |   July 01, 2014
Worth Every Penny
The ASHA Leader, July 2014, Vol. 19, 18-19. doi:10.1044/leader.LML.19072014.18
The ASHA Leader, July 2014, Vol. 19, 18-19. doi:10.1044/leader.LML.19072014.18
Name: Lisa Stephens, MA, CCC-SLP
Title: Owner, Associated TEAM TX, Inc.
Hometown: Oakville, Wash.
When Lisa Stephens first began working with “Charlie,” a third-grade boy, he couldn’t tell her his last name nor could he write his first name. He had been having trouble at school and his mother, single with two other children, didn’t have any financial means of getting help for him.
A friend of Stephens’ who is Charlie’s neighbor told Stephens about the boy’s difficulties, and Stephens asked to meet him. She worked with him every week for an hour—sometimes longer—for a year, teaching vocabulary, expressive grammar and phonemic awareness skills. A year later Charlie had learned not only how to read, but also some strategies to help him focus and cope with some of his sensory issues. Today he is a good student who looks forward to school and, in the words of his mother, “an amazingly smart young boy.”
The amount Charlie’s mother paid Stephens? Zilch.
It’s not surprising when you consider how Stephens has always been. As a child growing up in northern California, one of her favorite activities was picking wildflowers for her family and neighbors. The flowers no doubt wilted immediately, she now knows, and she was likely more excited about them than the recipient, but she sees it as a good example of how she’s wired.
“I loved and still love to make people happy—it’s the best joy I could ever get!”
And it’s pretty certain that Stephens’ happiness is catching among clients at her private practice in Oakville, Wash. In the past year and a half, Stephens has treated two to 10 patients per week and has given away 100 percent of her services. In fact, many of the clients she has seen since opening her practice in 2006 have never seen a bill for treatment. Ever.
“I’ve always wanted to be in a position where I could do this—ever since I opened my doors,” she says. “Heck, ever since I decided to become a speech-language pathologist.”
The road to this point has been long and varied but the goal had always been to make people happy. She credits her parents for making her feel like she “could do anything.” Her father, a school psychologist, recognized his daughter’s penchant for altruism. When she was a sophomore in high school he gave her a career aptitude test, which showed she had an inclination toward helping fields, such as teaching or nursing. A year later he had her take the California High School Proficiency exam, which she passed. Stephens started classes at a local community college at age 16.
A year later she transferred to Pacific Union College in Angwin, Calif., where, in her sophomore year, she took her first introduction to speech-language pathology class. It was then that her goal took form.
“I loved it,” she says. “I loved that you could help so many people in so many different environments. I knew this is what I wanted to do.”
After receiving her bachelor’s and master’s degrees, Stephens worked in home health care, schools and rehabilitation settings—all with the goal of getting a breadth of experience and one day opening a private practice. In 2006, she bought office space.
She renovated the space with a large treatment room with a one-way mirror (“That was so much fun!”) and has since worked as a contract SLP with a handful of small rural school districts, providing her a steady income. As the contract work with the schools increased, her need to be reimbursed for her private practice slowly disappeared, so she can serve the clients in her part-time private practice at minimal or no cost.
In the beginning, Stephens billed insurance or Medicaid. If the client’s insurance didn’t cover something in particular, she would go the extra mile to find alternative sources of funding, such as finding a grant or asking a civic club to hold a fundraiser. “It’s amazing how people will step up and help,” she notes.
And lately she hasn’t had to find creative ways to keep her clients—who range from children with language delays to older adults recovering from strokes—from having to pay out of pocket. She’s finally in a position to pick up the tab and not look back. Although she can see why some people might find her outlook unusual, she maintains that this is the only way she can continue to practice.
“I truly believe that by giving away what comes in to me, it opens up a ‘flow’ so that even more can come in, which offers even more for me to give back … perpetuating the gift of giving and the joy that comes with giving to others,” she says. “When I’m out running errands and I see a child, like Charlie, who I helped and he runs up to me to say ‘Hi,’ it’s the best feeling there is,” she says. “And what’s more, it’s so easy to help people. What if every SLP gave away one treatment session a day? Do you know what kind of impact we could make?”
1 Comment
July 8, 2014
Maureen McCarron
Altruism Does Not Rule Out Financial Viability
Lisa Stephens, Owner of Associated TEAM TX, Inc. in Oakville, Wash. is to be commended for her altruism. However, this story reminds me of the time, now more than 20 years ago, when our local professional association was planning activities for "Better Hearing & Speech Month." Among those activities, for several years previously, in our area it had been customary to perform 'free' hearing screenings. That year the director-audiologist of a local non-profit agency asked us to refrain from "undermining his business by performing 'free' screenings." Essentially, he said, we were "giving away" a service he worked hard to deliver as part of his practice and his family & employees depended on that income. Even though my entire career has been focused on providing services for people of limited financial means, I have never felt the same about so-called "free" clinical services again. I look forward to expansion of our services under the Affordable Care Act, negating that "free" or "no service" dilemma.
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July 2014
Volume 19, Issue 7