We have broadened our reach to bring the MS Center to where people need it most: close to home.
Our Rural Engagement Program aims to build strong connections and lasting relationships with people and families living with MS in rural communities throughout Colorado. This program features regular community forums and educational opportunities in towns throughout our region, bringing the expertise of our MS specialist neurologists, educators, and support service providers to those who may not be able to easily join us in the Denver area.
Through funding provided by a grant from the Bristol Myers Squibb Foundation, we are proud to offer an array of free support services and in-person events that are available to people living in rural areas. In 2022, we held in-person MS Community Forums in three selected communities. Our events in Pueblo & Otero Counties, Chaffee County, and Mesa County allowed us to lay the groundwork for expanding access to our free direct support services.
Upcoming Rural Engagement Community Forums
A key component of our Rural Engagement Efforts are regular Community Forums, held in communities throughout the region. These forums offer a chance for you to meet and talk to members of our medical and education teams in person and close to home. We are planning Community Forums in La Plata and Grand Counties in May and August of 2023. Please stay tuned for details and updates!
To get on our Rural Engagement Program mailing list, or for more information about any of these programs, please email Sophie Semenjuk, the MS Center’s Rural Engagement Manager.
Our Direct Support Services are offered completely FREE of charge to all participants, regardless of where they receive their MS care. These programs include online adaptive exercise classes, counseling sessions for individuals and families living with MS, and special access to online health and well-being coaching.
We hope that you read more about these opportunities and consider getting involved with our rural engagement program below.
Online Adaptive Exercise Classes
Led by Michele Harrison, this twice-weekly online exercise class provides individuals an opportunity to participate in seated adaptive exercises through a virtual group setting. Michele is a licensed physical therapist who has worked with the MS community for decades, and she specifically tailors her movements to the needs of people living with MS. Exercise is integral in maximizing the lifelong brain health of those living with MS. This class is not only a space to learn new movements, but it has also quickly become a place to spot familiar faces, meet new friends, and connect with one another.
Participants are guided through a series of exercises that can be adapted to various ability and mobility levels. Stretching and aerobic movements are key components of living an active lifestyle, and our exercise classes provide a robust workout. Michele also leads a Qi Gong sequence at the beginning of each class to help decrease tension, increase circulation, and refresh the mind to help you stay grounded and present in your body. We strive to cultivate a comfortable setting that welcomes all ability levels, and many participants strongly value the social connection that accompanies each class.
These one-hour classes are held on Tuesdays at 9:00 a.m. and Fridays at 9:30 a.m., and average about 10 to 15 participants per class. Guests can join from their home computer, laptop, or smartphone. Because of our remote capabilities, people from anywhere are welcome and encouraged to join the classes.
These exercise classes have made such a positive impact on participants, we would like to share their takeaways with you:
“The online activities are a lifesaver for me in terms of socializing, moving my arms and legs often. It allows me to maintain my current MS level.”
“I love the warmup, exercise, stretching, and camaraderie of the online class. The social activities are really fun because they allow me to talk to other people and to share in a common experience.”
“This has not only been a great program for physical exercise, but also provides positive impacts for my mood and energy level. I love having something on my schedule that makes me feel connected and purposeful.”
Register for Online Exercise Programs
We are so eager for you to join our twice-weekly virtual exercise classes! By filling out this form, we can add you to the email list, where you’ll receive all of the necessary information to attend our classes.
Hydrotherapy Coordinator & Online Adaptive Exercise Program Coordinator
Michele attended University of Colorado and graduated from Boston University’s Sargent College with a B. S. in physical therapy. She worked abroad and in Massachusetts before returning to Colorado in 1988, where she began working with the Rocky Mountain MS Center and Swedish Medical Center. There she began intensive and exclusive work with people with neurologic disabilities, in particular people with MS, Parkinson’s, Movement Disorders and CVAs. She has extensive specialized training in treatment techniques, wheelchair and seating evaluation, prescription, as well as aquatic therapy certification in a variety of different techniques. She is Aquatic Therapy and Rehabilitation Institute (ATRI) certified. She is also Aquatic Exercise Association (AEA) certified. She also has Rheumatoid Arthritis aquatic certification, Watsu and Jahara technique certifications (aquatic bodywork), Ai Chi certification (water Tai Chi), Halliwick certification (body movement and control techniques for people with disabilities) and is certified as a wheelchair and seating specialist (ATP/SMS) through RESNA.
Virtual Counseling Sessions
Supporting the mental health and well-being of people and families living with MS is a priority at the Rocky Mountain MS Center. We are proud to have connected patients and families with licensed counselors for over thirty years.
Depression and anxiety are common among people living with MS and other chronic conditions. Counseling is a space to care for yourself, check in with your mental health, and learn about coping and resilience tools to help with developing strategies for managing a chronic health condition. Counseling can be valuable to help process any changes you may experience through living one’s life with MS. This may include new MS symptoms, aging with MS, changing MS treatment, and MS progression. For some people, one or two sessions is enough to make a lasting difference while others choose to continue with additional sessions.
Elissa Berlinger, LCSW, is our primary mental health counselor at the MS Center. As an individual living with MS, it can be difficult to connect with a counselor who may not understand what you are going through. Elissa has lived with MS for years and brings her both her personal experience and professional expertise to counseling sessions. She is equipped to facilitate one on one counseling sessions for people living with MS, sessions for support partners, as well as integrated family counseling services. Wherever you are on your mental health journey, Elissa is eager to help you live a fuller, healthier, life with MS.
Counseling sessions are provided at no cost — it is our priority to ensure that your mental health comes with no barriers to access. Elissa is eager to provide you with counseling sessions, or to refer you to another professional if desired.
Contact our Counselor for a Virtual Session
To request a virtual counseling session, please contact Elissa Berlinger, LCSW directly. Elissa offers a limited number of sessions for free, or she can refer you to another professional if desired.
Elissa’s journey to becoming a clinical social worker has been wide reaching and a life long journey. She completed her undergraduate in Studio Art (Ceramics) and Political Science at the University of Colorado Boulder, her Masters in Social Work from Smith College School for Social Work. In addition to specialized training in eating disorders, trauma, and substance use, Elissa also has expertise in working with various neurological and chronic health conditions, with a particular focus on people and families living with multiple sclerosis. She works in conjunction with the Rocky Mountain MS Center to provide education and counseling services to individuals and families who have been impacted by MS.
Health & Well-being Coaching
A well-rounded lifestyle is essential to living life with MS to the fullest. Getting in regular physical activity, eating a balanced diet, and taking care of your general well-being are key – but this can be overwhelming amid working a job, caring for others, or just life in general! Health and well-being coaching creates a space for you to reflect inward and set new milestones to achieve a healthier and more balanced lifestyle, all under the guidance of health and well-being coach, Kelsey Morrow.
Kelsey meets with participants one on one to understand the changes that they would like to see in their lives. Health and well-being coaching can be for anything from sticking to a nutrition plan, working to improve your sleep, incorporating movement into your daily regimen, or even just talking through some health-related changes you’ve been considering. With each coaching session, you can expect 45 minutes of time dedicated to exploring habits that will stick to help you achieve your goals. During these sessions, Kelsey provides support, feedback, accountability, and encouragement from beginning to end. Kelsey works with you to discover sustainable actions that will help you achieve your goals, and she is eager to meet you wherever you are on your journey.
We asked one participant about her experiences with health and well-being coaching, and this is what she had to say:
“Meeting with Kelsey for the health and wellness coaching has been incredibly helpful, encouraging, and smart. The process has helped me create goals for diet, exercise, and creativity. The coaching has helped me stick to my goals and feel good about myself each week. This has been tremendous to adapting to my new lifestyle living with MS. Kelsey is so nonjudgmental, kind and encouraging. She approaches our sessions with enthusiasm. After each session she sent a follow up e-mail that laid out my intended goals. This was so valuable as I was able to refer to the goals and give myself gold stars when I completed something. I’m very grateful to the Rocky Mountain MS Center for providing this invaluable service.”
Kelsey Morrow is the Education Manager at the Rocky Mountain MS Center. She enjoys working with the doctors at the RMMSC at CU to provide educational conferences, webinars, classes, and speaker events for individuals and families throughout their MS experience. Kelsey is a Wellcoaches Certified Personal Coach and received her Bachelor’s degree in Communication and History from the University of Colorado in 2007. After a year in the AmeriCorps NCCC program, she has continued to work and volunteer with non-profit organizations.
The Rocky Mountain MS Center Rural Engagement Program is made possible in part by a grant from the Bristol Myers Squibb Foundation.