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Hamaspik Reaches Out to Long Island, Queens Community at Special Needs Expo

July 18, 2016

By Mendy Hecht, Hamaspik Gazette

The cutting-edge, comprehensive community services offered by Hamaspik were robustly represented at SpecialCare+ Expo 2016, a community special-needs expo hosted by Achiezer (AH-khi-EH-zehr, lit. “A Helping Brother”) Community Resource Center.

The disability advocacy, which serves Long Island and Queens communities, hosted the event at Congregation Beth Sholom, a prominent synagogue in Lawrence, New York.  About 24 vendors and ten professional presenters provided attendees with a wealth of critical and empowering information.

HamaspikCare Downstate Director Mordechai Wolhendler and Hamaspik of Kings County Medicaid Service Coordinator (MSC) Julie Bergmann were both on hand throughout the event, manning Hamaspik’s eye-catching table, fielding questions and offering the community the agency’s wide-ranging suite of solutions.

In addition to helping man Hamaspik’s table, Mrs. Bergmann provided critical assistance in the planning and delivery of one of the expo’s 11 informative presentations—a talk on self-direction, or the ability of the individual to choose and direct the quality and quantity of services that he or she receives.

That talk was presented by Atara Sternman, a Support Broker with the OPWDD’s Long Island regional office, with additional questions on the application process fielded by Mrs. Bergmann.

Hamaspik’s presence on Long Island, particularly its Five Towns region and the adjoining borough of Queens, dates back to May of 2009.  At that time, the agency secured approval to provide the New York State Dept. of Health (DOH)’s Nursing Home Transition and Diversion (NHTD) services to the suburban region.

That was followed in fall of 2010 by Hamaspik of Kings County’s recognition by the New York State Office for People With Developmental Disabilities (OPWDD) as an official provider of OPWDD services under its Long Island regional office.

By late 2014, Mrs. Bergmann was regularly serving as Hamaspik’s face at regional disability informational events—garnering enough attention, and agency services recipients, to warrant Hamaspik of Kings County’s first Long Island branch office. 

That office opened in December of 2015, and remains headed up by Mrs. Bergmann at its convenient Five Towns location in Far Rockaway, New York.

Throughout it all, up to and including her most recent representations at the Achiezer event, the Hamaspik MSC kept working crowds at public events—manning that Hamaspik table and getting the word out, one community member at a time.

The scene was no different this past May, as Hamaspik once again reached out to the Long Island and Queens at Achiezer’s inaugural community outreach event. 

Joining dozens of other nonprofits servicing people with intellectual disabilities and other special needs, Hamaspik’s two professionals informed dozens of inquisitive parents of the many services and benefits available to them.

Included in those services and benefits were several that inquirers didn’t know that their children (or parents) qualified for—or even that those services and benefits existed in the first place.

For example, a number of parents of small children with special needs, and even some providers of the state’s Early Intervention (EI) program, were unaware that such kids could qualify for some OPWDD services even while still under age three—or how to transition them from EI to OPWDD services.

Mrs. Bergmann adds that Hamaspik of Kings County came away with a couple of referrals from several local EI providers to start that transition process for their beneficiaries.  And, according to Mr. Wolhendler, the communities served by Achiezer were also exposed to HamaspikCare’s Consumer Directed Personal Aide Service (CDPAS), its most popular program.

“There was a great deal of interest,” Mrs. Bergmann later told the Gazette, “and I hope we can begin to fill the gap in providing services in this region.”