Professional Therapies, located at the Lancerlot Sports Complex since 1984, has been acquired by CORA (Comprehensive Outpatient Rehabilitation Agency) Physical Therapy, a national operator of outpatient physical therapy clinics.
CORA operates over 150 clinics in seven southern states: Florida, Georgia, North and South Carolina, recently adding Kentucky, Tennessee, and Virginia. Professional Therapies was CORA’s largest acquisition to date at the time of its purchase.
In a media release, CORA describes itself as “an outpatient company that uses proven clinical practices and cost-effective treatment to return patients to their jobs and lifestyles as soon as possible.”
“We are delighted to welcome the new companies whose top-quality clinics and therapists will expand our geographic reach and augment our existing services,” said CORA CEO Dennis Smith. “CORA will continue to pursue growth while adhering to its goal of delivering personalized care with respect and consideration for our patients’ needs.”
Former Professional Therapy owners Bill Mercer, Jan Jessee, and Ron Greer now hold the title of regional managers for CORA. There are still seven office locations in the Roanoke market area—in Roanoke, Vinton, Hardy, Blacksburg, and Rocky Mount, with two in Daleville. Most of the staff has remained—“same faces, same places,” says Mercer.
Mercer said the rehabilitation industry has been in the process of consolidation for several years. Professional Therapies was a “big, small group” in the industry. He said that joining CORA provides multiple opportunities for the local firm, giving it sound financial backing and providing better opportunities for staff, both financially and in training. More state-of-the art equipment is available and more quickly with a purchase order rather than a trip to the bank for financing.
He views this as a positive move for the patients, staff, and even the town— “a win-win situation.”
Back in 1984, Professional Therapies was invited by Lancerlot owner Henry Brabham to rent a space at the Lancerlot in order to take advantage of the heated pool and to instruct patients in the use of the equipment at the facility for their rehabilitation. Mercer said Lancerlot and Professional Therapies turned out to be a great match, the first time that physical therapists had joined forces with a health club in the area.
Over the years the therapists have been able to use not just the pool, but the weight rooms, the track, the handball courts, and even the hallways in working with clients.
CORA currently offers physical therapy, aquatic therapy, Astym treatment, functional capacity evaluations, Kinesio taping, neurological rehabilitation, occupational therapy, orthopedic rehabilitation, a pediatric program, post-surgical rehabilitation, speech therapy, TPI Certified Golf Fitness Evaluations, Work Conditioning/Work Hardening programs, and Worksteps.
They employ about 85 staff members in total in all seven Roanoke area locations, including about 13 full- and part-time in Vinton.
“We have a very strong and experienced staff, most of whom have been with us for years,” said Mercer.
There are no “technicians” on the staff; all the therapists and assistants are licensed. It is a certified rehabilitation agency, regulated by the Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS).
When it first came to Vinton, Professional Therapies occupied about 1,600 square feet in the Lancerlot. It now rents over 8500 square feet on the second floor. With the renovations at the Lancerlot since it was purchased by Penalty Box Partners, LLC in December 2017, Mercer hopes that the CORA space will eventually be reapportioned, as well as “dressed up.”
The new Lancerlot owners are in the process of sprucing up what was beginning to be viewed as an aging facility, including the CORA area, in addition to building a new ice hockey rink.
Patients are generally referred to CORA by their doctors, although the company does have “direct access” and can work with patients for two weeks without a doctor’s referral. Mercer says the local firm has a huge referral base, working with over 200 physicians each year as well as medical centers.
Clients generally select the most convenient location among the seven available for their therapy, although some of their offices are “specialty driven.”
The current full-time therapy staff in Vinton includes Jacob Dulski (DPT), Jayson Divers (DPT), Bill Mercer (PT), Susan Greer (PT), Licensed Physical Therapy Assistants Trevor Campbell and Christy Conner, and office staff Sherry Beckner, Debbie Reynolds, and Debbie Peer. Staff shared with other locations include Neelesh Shah (PTA), Valerie Thomas (PTA), Catherine Dent (Speech Pathologist) and Shannon Landes (Occupational Therapist).
Mercer spends much of his time at the Lancerlot facility, but also spends several hours each week doing evaluations and assessments for local companies in their industrial/work settings, including factories and offices, through the Worksteps program.
Worksteps was “founded to meet a critical employer need– creating a medically safe, legally compliant, scientific, and objective means of matching a worker’s functional capabilities with the essential functions of the job.”
CORA contracts with different companies to provide “pre-placement screening services to help employers determine whether candidates for employment are healthy and physically capable of safely performing job tasks.” They also conduct injury-prevention classes in the workplace, with special emphasis on spine disorders and repetitive trauma. Those who have been injured are evaluated to see if they are able to return to work and in the same capacity as before their injury took place.
Because careers have changed over the years and more people sit at computers all day, they have less range of motion, exercise less, and develop poor posture habits which can lead to shoulder problems. Many problems that physical therapy patients experience are caused by modern jobs that are more specialized and involve more repetitive motion.
Mercer says that when he first started as a physical therapist, he saw patients with more back issues than anything else. With the aging of the Baby Boomer generation, common problems now include shoulders, backs, necks, and knees.
He says Baby Boomers want to stay active and improve their quality of life. Physical therapists help them adapt to changes in their body due to aging and to make adjustments so they can continue to exercise throughout their lives and minimize the potential for injuries.
Professional Therapies has always been innovative and will continue to be now that it has joined CORA. They were the first in the area to use a pool as a therapeutic intervention, the first to provide Functional Capacity Testing, the first with a Vestibular Rehab specialist, and the first with a Worksteps pre-employment testing certified therapist. They also had the first physical therapist in the region certified as a Medical Professional Certified Golf Fitness Instructor— described by Mercer as a niche service.
Mercer is a graduate of Northside High School, Emory and Henry College, and Virginia Commonwealth University. He said he has loved coming to work as a therapist every day since he started his career in1977.
He is especially happy to have spent so many of those years in Vinton and continues to enjoy the relationships he has been able to develop with patients over those years.
“I am proud to have served the people of Vinton for 34 years where we have impacted the lives of thousands of clients,” said Mercer.
More information is available by calling CORA Physical Therapy at 343-0466 or online at https://www.coraphysicaltherapy.com/vinton-virginia/.