Multi-disciplinary therapy practice at EPHC thrives

Providing physical, occupational, hand and speech therapy, the Therapy and Wellness Center opened its doors at its current location on Eastern Plumas Health Care’s Portola campus last March. Complete with private treatment rooms and a gym with the latest medical-grade fitness equipment, EPHC’s Therapy and Wellness Center is one of the largest in the area. To date, the center has treated over 400 community members. More than a few have seen more than one discipline, including physical, occupational, and speech therapies.

“We are the only multidisciplinary therapy practice in all of Plumas, Sierra and Lassen counties,” said Jim Burson, director of rehabilitation at EPHC. Burson handles administrative work in addition to treating people with vertigo and giving physical therapy evaluations to those that need them in order to get a power chair or manual custom wheelchair. “I manage our four therapy disciplines, which are hand therapy, physical, occupational, and speech therapies,” Burson explained.

Burson does this in several settings, including outpatient at Eastern Plumas Health Care’s therapy and wellness center, inpatient, ‘SubAcute’ rehab, and at both of EPHC’s skilled nursing facilities, the latter having two campuses — Portola and Loyalton. “I utilized my past experience founding a local physical therapy practice in 1993 called Sierra Valley Physical Therapy, which I sold in 2006 to create our current Rehabilitation Services Department, here at EPHC, from scratch,” Burson said.  “Since May of 2019 we have grown from 1.5 contractors to 11 EPHC staff.”

The staff consists of highly experienced therapists, including licensed Physical Therapy Assistant Heidi Ward. Ward works with Lead Physical Therapist and Orthopedic Clinical Specialist Valerie Romanello to provide patient treatment, following the Plan of Care set by Romanello. They collaborate on patient progress and updating goals. Occupational Therapist and Certified Hand Therapist Jeanne Harper works at the center, as well as EPHC’s Speech and Language Pathologist, Lisa Lindquist, who treats patients of all ages and addresses communication, as well as swallowing and cognitive issues using the latest technology and assessments.


Burson reflected on the past year and how his team has worked through the pandemic. “We are guided by the Plumas County Health Officer and our own infection prevention team, here at EPHC, to screen every patient for symptoms and recent contact with symptomatic people,” Burson explained. “We require that surgical masks be worn by patients and that our staff wear them, along with safety glasses. Everyone sanitizes their hands frequently and we sanitize our equipment and furniture after each patient. We also limit patient occupancy to allow for 6 feet of distancing between them.” In early March of last year, the team was operating out of a 300 square foot room in the hospital while they waited for new equipment to arrive for the 1,900 square foot EPHC Therapy and Wellness Center.

“When the state lockdown occurred that month, we were no longer able to have members of the community enter the hospital and, within 36 hours, managed to move what little equipment we already had across the parking lot to our current location,” Burson said. Eventually, all their equipment arrived, though deliveries were delayed due to lockdowns in other states. “I am very proud of my staff for their maximum effort to provide the best possible care during what has been a very challenging time in healthcare,” Burson exclaimed with a smile.

The EPHC Therapy and Wellness Center supports people in a wide variety of areas. The physical therapy portion of the center deals with back pain, orthopedic surgery, including joint replacements, or knee repair. People are also treated for neurological conditions like stroke, Parkinson’s Disease, and brain injury. “Physical therapists work on anything related to mobility and strengthening,” Burson explained.

Other offerings are occupational therapy and hand therapy. “These are usually the same types of diagnoses, but with a focus on practical activities of daily living, like buttoning a shirt, preparing a meal or being independent in the shower,” Burson said. These therapies are also utilized for those who have undergone hand and arm surgery or injury treatment.


Speech therapy is therapy tailored to individuals with injuries or illnesses affecting their ability to speak well or swallow safely, in addition to those that need assistance in carrying out thinking, or cognitive tasks. “Organizing or memory functions would benefit from our speech therapy service,” Burson gave as an example.

Whether you want to walk again after a stroke or are seeking to restore the use of your shoulder after a fall or sports injury, physical therapy can help. The EPHC Therapy and Wellness Center treats people of all ages and physical abilities.

The EPHC Therapy and Wellness Center has seen very strong support from the community and providers alike through a tumultuous time and are searching for an additional Physical Therapist to join their team in order to keep up with the rising demand for high quality therapy services. For more information about the center, visit Eastern Plumas Health Care online or call 832-6554.