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High tech MetroHealth Driver Rehabilitation Van Ready to Roll! 

United Spinal Association of Northeast Ohio > BLOG > Connections Newsletter Article > High tech MetroHealth Driver Rehabilitation Van Ready to Roll! 

By James Wilson, DO

Driving is an important aspect of independence in 21st century America’s society. However, for many people with functional impairments, this ability is lost.  The result is increased dependence on the caregivers and government programs, isolation or unsafe driving behaviors. To meet this need, the MetroHealth Rehabilitation Institute has a long-standing program for driver evaluation and training. However, until recently, some community members with the most severe impairments were not being served. This led to a passionate group of therapists, physicians and researchers to rally support to establish a unique option for people in northeast Ohio.

For some people with the driving potential, traditional adaptive controls and other vehicle modifications are still too much. Consider a person with high tetraplegia (paralysis of the arms as legs). Their thinking, vision, hearing and decision-making may all be sufficient at the Ohio BMV but they can’t leave home if their limited arm strength can’t safely control the OEM steering wheel in a vehicle. 

In 2018, Mike Flis, Greg Nemunaitis, MD and Mary Joan Roach, PhD,  received a $100,000 grant from the Craig H Neilsen Foundation for a high tech van. These funds were further supplemented by generous contributions from Sunnyside Toyota, MetroHealth department of PM&R, the MetroHealth Foundation and the Mark Kalina Jr. Foundation. The project took almost three years to raise the money, obtain the vehicle then make all the modifications. Currently in the state of Ohio only two other comparable vans exist: one in Columbus and one available only to veterans. 

Mike Flis (Certified Driver Rehabilitation Specialist) and Molly O’Reilly are current occupational therapists and certified driving instructors lead the rehabilitation driving program at MetroHealth. The driver rehabilitation program evaluates physical and cognitive disabilities, assesses for barriers to safe driving, and provides rehabilitation services. They also give custom recommendations for appropriate vehicles and modifications as well as experienced advice to find funding sources like Opportunities for Ohioans with Disabilities (OOD) or Medicaid Waiver programs. 

The decision to pursue driver training should start with a conversation between a patient and their clinical team. Each person has different abilities and barriers to driving but motivated individuals can always be referred to the MetroHealth Driver Rehabilitation program for an initial evaluation. Many people can get an on-road assessment on the first day, but rehabilitation can be a longer process. 

To schedule an appointment, call 216-957-3857. For more information call 216-778-2293 or visit

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