GREENVILLE, N.C. (WNCT) – April is Parkinson’s Awareness Month. One group of researchers is seeking to highlight the need for more specialized care for Parkinson’s in Eastern North Carolina.

Parkinson’s disease impacts around one million Americans with nearly 60,000 new yearly diagnoses. Proper treatment for Parkinson’s disease, let alone a diagnosis, requires something called a “Movement Disorder Specialist.”

Currently, there isn’t one east of Raleigh. However, a group of ECU researchers is wanting to change that. Dr. Lauren Turbeville is one researcher on the project. She said this topic hits home for her.

“So we created a survey, and we actually had some individuals with Parkinson’s disease help us on the survey,” said Turbeville, whose father lives with Parkinson’s. “Sometimes even walking, people with Parkinson’s often experience what’s called freezing gate, where they just feel like they’re stuck for a minute, and it takes them a minute to actually just get walking again.”

Her dad lives in South Carolina, where he also experiences a lack of care providers.

“So he has to travel about three hours to a Movement Disorder Center in Charleston, South Carolina,” said Turbeville.

She said the goal is to gather enough research to be able to lobby for a Movement Disorder Specialist in Greenville.

“We hope to be able to partner with somebody at Vidant (Medical Center), hopefully in the neurology department, who could bring a movement disorder specialist in terms of lobbying for, you know, more support in the area,” she said.

She said the research will wrap up in a couple of weeks, and when it does, “Now, how can we help whether that’s having a pop-up clinic in some of the more rural areas, or improving access to maybe telehealth and helping with technology or telehealth trainings.”

She added she hopes those measures help until they are able to bring a Movement Disorder Specialist to Greenville.

Turbeville also said larger cities and medical universities usually have these specialists, but Greenville is just not as large as some others in the state. However, it is a medical hub for a lot of people living in surrounding rural areas, leading to a pretty big need for more care options.