DAYTON, OH (Jan. 30, 2024) – Montgomery County’s Stillwater Center is proud to announce the launch of a groundbreaking initiative aimed at enhancing the lives of residents with disabilities. The Board of County Commissioners (BCC) and the Caring Hearts Foundation celebrated the arrival of Pepper the robot during a formal check presentation at a BCC meeting on Tuesday, Jan. 30.
Pepper is designed to provide invaluable assistance and support to Stillwater Center residents.
“Montgomery County believes in the power of technology to create positive change,” said Debbie Lieberman, Montgomery County Commission President. “The development of Pepper reflects our commitment to enhancing the quality of life for individuals with disabilities. We are proud to be at the forefront of innovation that fosters inclusivity and independence.”
The Stillwater Center is an intermediate care facility that serves as a home for children and adults who are residents of Montgomery County with severe developmental disabilities and/or significant medical needs.
Pepper is a humanoid robot and represents a significant leap forward in the realm of assistive technology. It features a user-friendly interface, can be programmed to speak to individuals in their language, uses sign language and can perform simple tasks. The robot can also provide emotional support to residents, alleviating anxiety and enhancing their overall well-being.
“We serve a diverse population, with residents aged 18 months to 85. As a top intermediate care facility, families all over the world seek out our services,” said Dr. Michelle Pierce-Mobley, Director of Stillwater Center. “Three of our residents and one regular respite client do not use English as their primary language. Several of our residents are non-verbal, so this technology will assist us in incorporating sign language and other adaptive technologies to facilitate communication.”
Staff can also use Pepper to store and retrieve resident care plans and recite best practices to promote efficient and quality care. The robot can wave, dance and sing. It can even read during story hour to Stillwater’s pediatric residents.
The Ohio Department of Developmental Disabilities awarded a grant to Stillwater to cover the cost of an information technology expert for their healthcare technology vision. The robot costs $44,000. Its purchase was made possible thanks to support from the BCC and a donation from the nonprofit Caring Hearts Foundation.
Founder Leslie Kahn-Snow formed the foundation after retiring from a career in pediatric nursing. She completed her nursing clinical rotation at Stillwater Center nearly three decades ago.
“Stillwater has always held a special place in my heart,” said Kahn-Snow. “When Dr. Michelle went to explain all the benefits, not just for residents themselves but the nursing staff and even visitors that come here, I just thought, 'What an awesome idea to really embrace technology to better healthcare and the lives of the people here!'
Representatives from both organizations were on hand to present a $20,000 check Tuesday.
“Montgomery County is proud to support cutting-edge technology that enhances the lives of our citizens. We also extend our heartfelt gratitude to the Caring Hearts Foundation for their generous gift. This initiative underscores the tremendous impact that the collaboration between Montgomery County and nonprofits can have on creating a more inclusive and accessible future,” said Commissioner Judy Dodge.
Commissioner Carolyn Rice represented the BCC during a private unboxing at Stillwater Center ahead of Tuesday’s check presentation.
“It was like being a little kid again because we got to see them unpacking the box and each step of the process and then comes out the coolest invention that I've ever seen,” said Rice. “This is visionary. This is the future of healthcare so of course we would want to support this. We’re going to blaze a path that others will follow so today is an extremely exciting day for Stillwater and for Montgomery County.”
Pepper is now being programmed and is expected to be operational early this spring. An official unveiling will be held at a later date.