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First On-site Fire Inspection at Hamaspik’s Dinev Inzerheim Yields No Red Flags

Agency’s Only ICF Impresses State’s Office of Fire Prevention and Control (OFPC)

August 20, '15

By Mendy Hecht, Hamaspik Gazette

An unannounced two-day audit at Hamaspik of Orange County’s Dinev Inzerheim Intermediate Care Facility (ICF), the agency’s first group home of any kind and its only ICF, ended positively this July 7-8.

The survey, as industry jargon calls it, was conducted by inspectors with the New York State Office for People With Developmental Disabilities (OPWDD), which oversees Hamaspik.

While the two OPWDD officials were present on both days, an additional inspector with the Office of Fire Prevention and Control (OFPC), a division of the New York State Division of Homeland Security and Emergency Services (DHSES), also paid a visit.

For Dinev, which has been passing fire-safety reviews for years now, it was still a first.

Until now, all fire-safety rules and regulations at the ICF were reviewed by OPWDD staff during regular audits.  The July visit marks Dinev’s first dedicated visit by a sole OFPC inspector.

Not unexpectedly, he found everything in perfect order.

As an Intermediate Care Facility, Dinev is subject to heightened levels of supervision, care and safety for its vulnerable and high-maintenance residents.  Dinev and all other OPWDD-certified-and-supervised ICFs must have a full-time registered nurse (RN), a licensed MD on call at all times, and numerous other specialized staffing requirements.

Any state-certified ICF must also adhere to the Life Safety Code.

Universally respected as the authoritative standard for fire-protection and fire-minimization construction and usage strategies, the Life Safety Code is a regularly-updated safety manifesto of sorts produced by the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA).

While the Life Safety Code lays down different demands for different structures, there are several core life-protecting essentials from which details may branch out.  These include primary entrance/exit doors that must swing or otherwise open in specific ways in case of fire, fire-resistant central hallways, sprinkler systems and, obviously, light- and sound-based fire alarms.

For the Dinev Inzerheim, Life Safety Code adherence looks like all the regular bells (literally) and whistles (figuratively), plus fire-retardant carpet along the main hall, self-closing fireproof doors (on fireproof bedrooms), and fire-resistant extra-thick sheet rock in walls and ceilings.

All that hardware might conjure up visions of a bleak, stony institution.  But Dinev is anything but.

Step into 10 Dinev Court in Kiryas Joel, New York any day, and you’ll be forgiven for getting the impression of a vacation lodge or boutique retreat center.  Spotless linoleum interior hallways give way to cozy bedrooms, and the dining room, living room and den look like any comfortable private residence.  A fully automated modern office is tucked off to one side, functioning as the ICF’s 24/7 nerve center, and a wrap-around wooden walkway lends a rustic, cabin-like look outside.

This is the world the state officials entered at 7:00 a.m. the morning of July 7, observing as staff lovingly roused residents from bed, led them through morning hygiene and wardrobe routines followed by medication administration, brief traditional morning religious prayers, nutritious breakfast, and departure to school.

The auditors stayed on site until the afternoon, reviewing internal paperwork.

The audit’s second day began with the officials’ arrival at 9:30 a.m., continuing the technical reviews left off the day before.  Records and logs for each individual resident and the often-extensive medical and mental-health care administered to each were carefully perused, as were records of the ICF’s maintenance and other operational variables.

Full fire-safety records, including announced and unannounced drill results, were also looked at.

Three weeks later, the state’s results came in: no deficiencies found.

Given Hamaspik’s record, that may be no surprise.  But, as a Dinev staffer points out, it takes a lot of hard work—at any Hamaspik group home in general, and at Dinev in particular.

The ICF’s residents are not only low-function, but also high-involvement.  Most have concurrent medical and mental-health needs that not only earn them Dinev residency, but the involved and active 24/7 care that they need to survive and thrive.

Delivering that active care at Dinev are DSPs Brach, Dresner, Feuerwerker, Fisher, Gold, Goldberger (secretary), Katz, Klein, Melamed, Moskowitz, Rosenberg, Safadi, Spitzer and Weiss. 

They’re backed by cook Mrs. Greenfeld, maintenance men Joel Sandel and Ezriel Spitzer, and Hamaspik of Orange County Director of Residential Services Mr. Joel Weiser.

Rounding out that care team are professionals Mrs. Berman, RN, social worker Mrs. J. Stimmel, LCSW, and Mrs. K. Stimmel, Ph.D., residence psychologist—all guided by Program Director Mrs. Brach, who is on site virtually 24/7 to give residents the love only a mother could give.

“I would say that our goal is to impress the state,” comments Mr. Weiser, “but our goal is to impress the individuals we serve, that they should feel like they do in their parents’ homes: Happy, comfortable and loved.”

But are they high-functioning enough to know where they are?

Weiser responds by pointing out residents’ emotional attachment to staff—an attachment, he says, that can be seen despite their low function upon staff returning from brief absences.  “They’re happy in this environment,” he says.

Asked for the hardest part of the job at Dinev, the aforementioned Direct Support Professional (DSP) says that individuals with special needs tend not to reciprocate the love and caring given them, which actually makes their caregivers better people, bringing out in them the calm, persistent patience—not to mention truly selfless love—needed to work positively with challenging behaviors.

“Staff works very hard to keep it all together,” says the staff member, “and they do a great job!”

And now, they have latest audit at Dinev to prove that claim once again.