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Hamaspik’s New Long Island Office Builds on Agency’s Years of Service to Region

January 6, 2016

By Mendy Hecht, Hamaspik Gazette


Driven Hamaspik Employee Drives Expansion of Services to Five Towns, Queens, Beyond

On December 21, 2015, Hamaspik made history again—as Hamaspik of Kings County officially opened a local branch office in Far Rockaway, taking its existing services and supports to the communities of Long Island and Queens to the next big level.

While Hamaspik of Kings County has been helping people in Long Island and Queens from Brooklyn for years now, the new branch location will bring Hamaspik’s wide and ever-growing range of services and supports to an ever-growing community base of people in need.

Among the communities targeted by Hamaspik for outreach with its superlative brand of caring, compassion and competence are the numerous neighborhoods of Queens, the well-established “Five Towns” of  Long Island (Cedarhurst, Hewlett, Inwood, Lawrence and Woodmere),and Far Rockaway itself.

Heading up the new office is Hamaspik of Kings County’s very own Mrs. Julie Bergmann.

Getting started

Hamaspik of Kings County’s Long Island saga began in May of 2009, when the agency secured approval to provide Nursing Home Transition and Diversion (NHTD) services on Long Island.

That self-explanatory niche program provides services and supports to people transitioning back home from stints at nursing homes, or allows them to be diverted from hospitals straight to their homes, not into nursing homes.

Among the many services provided by NHTD is environmental modifications (e-mods), or home accessibility renovations.

The NHTD program is run under the auspices of the New York State Dept. of Health (DOH).  The DOH contracts with nine regional nonprofits statewide to administer the NHTD program; these non-profits are dubbed Regional Resource Development Centers (RRDCs).

In 2009, the Ronkonkoma-based non-profit Self Initiated Living Options (SILO), the designated RRDC serving Long Island, needed e-mods for one NHTD client on the island—and turned to Hamaspik to comprehensively help it meet that individual client’s needs.

Opening a new front

A relatively short time later, having secured a toehold on Long Island through the Dept. of Health’s NHTD program, Hamaspik of Kings County further secured its beachhead by establishing a relationship with the Long Island regional office of the OPWDD.

The Office for People With Developmental Disabilities is the state agency that serves as Hamaspik’s original public-sector partner.  Having worked with the OPWDD in the Hudson Valley from its 1986 founding and having since expanded to New York City, Hamaspik now broadened its horizons to a new frontier in which to bring its five-star caring and service.

Much of that groundwork was put in by Hamaspik of Kings County’s Julie Bergmann.

By the fall of 2010, after months of effort by Mrs. Bergmann, Hamaspik of Kings County was an officially recognized provider of OPWDD services under its Long Island regional office.

Specific impetus to branch out onto Long Island was the simple fact that an existing Hamaspik of Kings County beneficiary from Brooklyn had moved out there—and had asked Hamaspik to come along.

A family affected by disability had greatly benefited from Hamaspik and its ability to get the job done right, and had accordingly sought MSC services from the agency on Long Island.

Hamaspik, in the form of Julie Bergmann, MSC Supervisor Shalva Sashitzky and Executive Director Joel Freund, was only too happy to oblige.

Dream team

Among Hamaspik’s numerous services and supports for people with developmental disabilities (and their loving families) is the vital Medicaid Service Coordinator (MSC) program.

With a dedicated Hamaspik MSC, the individual receiving any number of beneficial specialty Medicaid programs has an advocate and defender at his or her side.

In years past, the Gazette has extensively documented the rather heroic distances MSCs have gone for their clients—efforts not demanded by their job descriptions but driven by the very real love they harbor for their caseloads.

Mrs. Bergmann of Hamaspik of Kings County is one such elite MSC.

Mrs. Bergmann regularly goes all out for her clients, along with fellow Hamaspik of Kings MSCs Mrs. Zelma Feldman, Mrs. Chedva Freund, Mrs. Chava Goldstein, Mrs. Sarah Mindy Leitner and Mrs. Frumit Strulovic.  Mr. Moshe Goldberger and Mr. Naftali Weiser round out the Hamaspik of Kings County MSC team.

Branching out, moving up

Fast-forward several years, and Hamaspik’s MSC caseload on the island steadily grew, thanks primarily to Mrs. Bergmann’s driven and focused long-term efforts.

With Mrs. Bergmann at first tending to one MSC beneficiary, then a handful, the logistics grew increasingly illogical: Why should MSC beneficiaries have to drive in to Brooklyn, or an MSC drive out from Brooklyn, for face-to-face meetings when you could have a local office?

At the same time, about one year ago, Mrs. Bergmann began actively pushing Hamaspik services and supports on Long Island, becoming the increasingly visible face of the agency by appearing at regional symposia, health fairs and other events pertaining to special needs.

The result was a significant spike in MSC clients from Queens and Long Island being serviced by Mrs. Bergmann out of Brooklyn.

Thus, several months ago, Hamaspik of Kings County Director of Development Naftali “Tully” Tessler got a call from Executive Director Freund. “Let’s take one of our employees and put them out there,” Freund said, as Tessler recalls. (You can surely guess who was tapped.)

An existing real-estate location was found in mid-November in centrally- located Far Rockaway, a suburb at the gateway to Long Island’s Five Towns area.

With a lease shortly signed, Mr. Tessler found himself purchasing office furniture for the new office. And this December, Mrs. Bergmann marked her official first day in a new Hamaspik field office she veritably built and earned herself. A second staffer will be hired to join her in coming weeks.

“I have a friendly relationship with the Long Island DDRO,” or Developmental Disabilities Regional Office, Mrs. Bergmann humbly states.  “I think it should be emphasized that services and the process to get those services in Long Island are different than in New York City.  That’s why it makes sense to have a specific MSC to handle the area so we can keep up on the changes and related training for this area.”

She would know.

But in knowing precisely what is needed for what area, and then going out and getting it done, the MSC symbolizes Hamaspik’s ethos of not just doing the job, but of doing it right.