Program areas at Kessler Foundation
RESEARCH CENTER: Kessler Foundation researchers improve the quality of life for people with physical and cognitive disabilities through rehabilitation research in its nine specialized Centers under the leadership of noted research directors. The Mobility and Rehabilitation Engineering Research, Neuropsychology & Neuroscience, Disability Employment Research, Spinal Cord Injury Research, Stroke Rehabilitation Research, Traumatic Brain Injury Research, Outcomes and Assessment Research, Center for Spinal Stimulations and Rocco Ortenzio Neuroimaging Center. While the staff of each center has expertise in particular areas, collaboration among Foundation researchers as well as with collaborators from around the US and the world, enhances progress toward finding ways to overcome the obstacles faced by people with disabilities caused by brain injury, spinal cord injury, multiple sclerosis, arthritis, and other chronic neurological and orthopedic conditions. The Foundation has the distinction of having the only 3T MRI scanner solely devoted to rehabilitation research in the United States. Since 1998, the Foundation has invested $141 million in research, in addition to $121 million for research funded by federal, state and private sources. In 2021, the Foundation received $25 million in new federal, state, and private grants and contracts. Two federal Model System grants establish Kessler Foundation as a center of excellence for both traumatic brain injury (TBI) and spinal cord injury (SCI) research. Model Systems are comprehensive networks that promote independent and collaborative research that will improve the national standard of care for individuals with these devastating injuries. Model Systems are funded by large, multi-year grants sponsored by the National Institute on Disability, Independent Living and Rehabilitation Research. Kessler Foundation is one of only six centers to have dual model systems: Northern New Jersey SCI System and Northern New Jersey TBI System. These model systems are collaborative efforts with Rutgers University-NJ Medical School and Kessler Institute for Rehabilitation. In 2018, the Board of Trustees pledged to invest $15 million in incremental funding to launch a new and promising areas of research in the field of transcutaneous and epidural stimulation to improve function for people with spinal cord injuries. In early 2020, the Foundation completed construction of the Tim & Caroline Reynolds Center, a 11,000 square foot science building to house staff, laboratories and state-of-the-art equipment at a cost of $6.5 million to expand the research facilities and infrastructure of the organization. In March 2020, with the rapid spread of the coronavirus pandemic, the Foundation following NJ mandate, CDC and NIH recommendations required employees to work from home and ceased human subject research. Employees were able to work on research, data analysis, write papers and grant proposals. After three months, following federal and state guidelines, the Foundation staff returned to work on a gradual basis and resumed human subject research.
PROGRAM CENTER: Kessler Foundation focuses on increasing employment opportunities for people with disabilities through its Signature Employment and Community Employment grantmaking programs which fund local and national programs aimed to increase the percentage of Americans with disabilities in the workforce. Special Initiative Grants, an invitation only program, are awarded to projects and organizations that operate within the broad spectrum of rehabilitation and physical disabilities primarily in New Jersey. Rates of unemployment and underemployment are unacceptably high among the millions of people with disabilities in the United States. By working full or part-time, with training and support, many people can find meaningful employment and reap the benefits of greater independence and self-esteem. Having a job enhances social interaction and acceptance in the community, which contribute to a better quality of life. Although individuals living with disabilities represent the largest minority group seeking employment in today's marketplace, they are often not considered an integral component of corporate diversity programs. Through our strategic focus on employment, Kessler Foundation has invested over $54 million since 1998 in organizations that work to create job opportunities for people with disabilities. Projects funded include placement, training and education, social enterprise, entrepreneurship, and institutional support. This funding has enabled people with disabilities to overcome the obstacles that often face them and meet the workforce needs of American business. Innovative grant making has introduced creative solutions to help eliminate barriers that prevent people with disabilities from working.