The Fort Myers News-Press featured our own Kay Jasso on October 31, 2015 in their Newsmaker section.

by: Whitney Ward

The Multiple Sclerosis Center of Southwest Florida’s mission is to improve quality of life for those in Southwest Florida who are affected by multiple sclerosis. The symptoms range from severe fatigue, to loss of vision, severe weakness or paralysis of the limbs.

The MS Center serves the five county region of Southwest Florida, consisting of Charlotte, Collier, Glades, Hendry, and Lee counties. Last year, the center served over 200 individuals through direct services, group activities, and educational events.

Q: What is multiple sclerosis? How do you treat this disease?

Multiple sclerosis is a chronic, often disabling disease that attacks the central nervous system which includes the brain, spinal cord, and optic nerves. MS is believed to be an autoimmune disease. Symptoms may be mild, such as numbness in the limbs; or severe, such as paralysis or loss of vision. The progression, severity, and specific symptoms of MS are unpredictable and vary from one person to another.

While there is not a cure for MS, there are multiple treatment options available to address symptoms. All of these products can alter the course of the disease by decreasing the number and severity of relapses, by slowing the progression of the disease, and by reducing the accumulation of new lesions.

Q: Who gets MS?

Most people with MS are diagnosed between ages of 20 and 50. Although some have been diagnosed as young as 13 or as old as 85, with an at least two to one ratio of women to men.

MS occurs in most ethnic groups, including African-Americans, Asians and Hispanics/Latinos, but is more common in Caucasians of northern European ancestry.

The disease has a higher rate of incidence in areas north of the equator, than south of the equator.

Q: How many people are affected by this disease locally, in the U.S., worldwide?

According to the MS Foundation, there is an estimated 400,000 people in the United States and about 2.5 million around the world who have MS. About 200 new cases are diagnosed each week in the United States.

Q: What services does the MS Center provide?

There is no cure for MS. However, the Multiple Sclerosis Center of Southwest Florida provides a wellness program to help its clients manage the symptoms of their disease. The MS Center provides services such as massage therapy, acupuncture therapy, and mental health counseling through 24 contracted therapists throughout Southwest Florida.

It has been proven exercise and stretching helps to reduce symptoms for those with MS. To help facilitate that process, the MS Center is piloting a new exercise therapy program at the Cape Coral Wellness Center to help people with MS bridge the gap between physical therapy and an individual exercise program. The new exercise therapy program will also serve as an alternative to physical therapy for some. Dr. Mollie Venglar from FGCU’s Physical Therapy department will be providing assistance in developing and evaluating the pilot program.

The MS Center pays for the services, and requires only a small co-pay from the client. Yoga classes, monthly educational events, and support groups, are offered by the Center free of charge to people with MS.

Q: What is the biggest challenge facing the MS Center?

Last year, the center served over 200 individuals through direct services, group activities, and educational events. However, there are an estimated 1,050 suffering from MS in the five county areas. The center is undergoing strategic expansion of its services to reach and meet the needs of those people. We have 24 contracted providers to serve the wide geographic area. We need to add more providers in areas that will improve access of those in need.

The center in Naples is a gathering place and a place to educate, socialize, and a resource for information available to all those affected by MS. Many MS Center clients in Lee and Charlotte counties have expressed a desire to have us establish a “MS Center North”, so they can take part in the center’s activities and take advantage of the resources available.

Q: How can businesses and the community help?

The center is funded only by donations and grants. It does not receive support from national organizations. The center is looking for volunteers and donations to help us reach the goal of bringing more resources and direct services to Lee, Charlotte, Hendry, and Glades counties for people suffering with the debilitating symptoms of MS. Visit for information about services and how you can get involved.

Kay Jasso 2015Kay Jasso

  • Career: Executive director, Multiple Sclerosis Center of Southwest Florida
  • Age: 57
  • Family: Husband Alberto, three adult children, Eric, Melanie, and Analesia
  • Birthplace: Chicago
  • Education: B.S. management