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Hamaspik Choice MLTC Gala Opening

Embracing Change:

Hamaspik Choice MLTC Celebrates Launch at Gala Grand Opening

Gov’s Deputy Secretary for Health Burke, Elected Officials on Hand for Major Milestone

The weather was chilly but sunny the morning of Thursday, November 14.  But inside the packed Hamaspik Terrace social hall at 58 Rt. 59 in Monsey, the atmosphere was decidedly warm.

It was a day years in the making and, as they mingled and socialized over coffee, pastries and fresh juice, Hamaspik employees, public servants and professional partners felt the rousing excitement.

After all, it’s not every day that you get to officially open a Managed Long-Term Care Program (MLTCP). 
Especially after working on it for 24 consecutive months.

But those thousands of hours, hundreds of calls and dozens of meetings had now come to a head.  Final approvals were behind them.  And for the Hamaspik Choice staff, public-service partners and more than a few consultants, it was time to celebrate.
State Senator David Carlucci

Planting an MLTC

The Managed Long-Term Care Program model is a key part of Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s ongoing redesign initiative for Medicaid, the state/federal healthcare program for the poor.

As its title indicates, the program provides community-based long-term needs for a specifically defined demographic: People who need 120 or more consecutive days of community-based long term care, and/or who may require a nursing-home level of care.

Instead of Medicaid paying indefinitely for their care with the conventional fee-for-service model, MLTCPs function as insurance plans, giving monthly lump sums for each.

The MLTCPs, like the newly-launched Hamaspik Choice, then must keep costs of care for each patient within their monthly lump sum provided by Medicaid.

This so-called capitated rate model is expected to save New York State’s Medicaid program millions of dollars in the care of the chronically-ill and typically home-bound.

Designing and planning a new MLTCP entity, never mind securing state approval for one, is an exercise in mounds of paperwork, rigorous diligence and more than a few late nights.

In fall of 2011, however, the Hamaspik agency, never one to shy away from potential growth, took a look at the state’s Medicaid Redesign Team (MRT) list of suggested reforms.

Among them was a proposal to create the cost-cutting MLTC model.  With its finger on the pulse of its constituent community’s needs, Hamaspik saw another opportunity for interfacing.  And the first seeds of its MLTC program were sown.

Rockland County Legislator Philip Soskin

Warm weather

Two years later, on another November morning, house emcee Brenda Katina took the stand yet again.  Filling the room before her was perhaps the largest crowd Hamaspik had hosted in years—and for good reason.

For close to the past hour, guests had trickled in from the reserved parking lot and made their way into the Hamaspik building, then heading down a hallway festively adorned with clusters of bright balloons where they were greeted by a guest table and Hamaspik Choice staff.  A reception room sumptuously stocked with an array of pastries and beverages awaited further down the hall; that chamber had filled to near-capacity before the event’s formal start with guests and staff making introductions and talking shop.

The triumphant sense of achievement grew, and by the time Mrs. Katina’s voice could be heard on the sound system inviting all to the main ballroom, the exhilaration could be felt.

The Hamaspik Terrace ballroom, filled with over 20 elegantly-set and balloon-topped tables, was soon fully occupied.

At the front of the chamber sat Hamaspik’s executive directors: Joel Freund of Kings County, Moses Wertheimer of Orange County, Meyer Wertheimer of Rockland and Yoel Bernath of Hamaspik Choice.

Seated around them were such dignitaries as State Senators David Carlucci (D-38th Dist.) and Simcha Felder (D-44th Dist.), and Rockland County Legislators Phil Soskin and Aaron Wieder.

New York State Assembly-woman Ellen Jaffee and Orange County Legislator Thomas Pahucki were also on hand.  Representing new State Sen. Cecilia Tkaczyk (D-46th Dist.) was her office’s Director of District Operations for Ulster and Greene Counties, Alanna Henneberry.

Also present were Rockland County Dept. of Social Services Commissioner Susan Sherwood, Rockland County Office of Mental Health Commissioner Mary Ann Walsh Tozer, as well as Irene Kurlander, Director of Long-Term Care (LTC) at the Orange County Dept. of Social Services, and several of her staff members.
Longtime Hamaspik attorney Seth Stein of Morit Hock, LLP, along with colleague Rachel Fernbach, was instrumental in creating the new MLTC.  Both were also guests.

Filling several other tables were representatives of Hamaspik Choice’s numerous partners, including regional hospitals, home care provider agencies, durable medical equipment (DME) providers, and top brass at longtime Hamaspik partner Fidelis.

Rockland County Legislator Aaron WeiderCrowning the event with her presence was Guest of Honor Courtney Burke, former Commissioner of the New York State Office for People With Developmental Disabilities (OPWDD).

Ms. Burke, currently serving in Gov. Cuomo’s executive chamber as Deputy Secretary for Health, was paying her second-ever visit to Hamaspik.

After introducing a weather-related theme, Mrs. Katina invited guests to enjoy a catered breakfast.

A few informal minutes later, the emcee introduced Hamaspik Founder and Hamaspik of Rockland County Executive Director Meyer Wertheimer.

Mr. Wertheimer first welcomed all, noting that the event not only marked the opening of a very “needed” program, but also doubled as a celebration of Hamaspik’s 25th anniversary.  While the agency was actually launched in September, the current party’s November date was reasonably close enough to warrant double duty.

From the get-go, Wertheimer said, Hamaspik’s mission has been to serve everyone regardless of age or need, under one roof.  “We are building on this mission, block after block, during all these years,” he said.

The Founder then listed all the services the agency expanded into over the years and decades, from that initial first Intermediate Care Facility (ICF) to its current MLTC and its future hopes for eventually becoming a Developmental Disabilities Individual Support and Care Coordination Organization (DISCO), an efficient new model of services-delivery for individuals with disabilities that the state is currently working on.

“We are looking forward for our family in government to help us promote these services,” said Mr. Wertheimer, then ending his remarks by thanking Dep. Secretary Burke, OPWDD officials and elected leaders for helping Hamaspik reach its goals.

Following the presentation of an informative, inspiring video covering all of Hamaspik’s services, Mrs. Katina formally welcomed Burke, introducing her as a mother and leader and presenting her with mementos invoking the event’s weather theme.

An enthusiastic round of applause followed as the Deputy Secretary rose to share a few words.

In her remarks, Ms. Burke first thanked Hamaspik for its warm welcome, noting that she now felt the same warmth and sense of family that she had felt upon her visit two years ago to Hamaspik of Orange County. 
She also thanked Messrs. Wertheimer and Bernath for their community work.

“It’s that feeling that I had that day of the welcoming that I hope everyone feels when they come to get your services, which I know they do,” she said, “that feeling that when you come in the front door, you’re being loved and you’re being welcomed, and people are there to help you and support you.”

The top state official then commented on the era of change New York finds itself in both at the state and national level—and that while some organizations merely watch or even resist change, Hamaspik embraces change.

Ms. Burke also noted the presence of so many members of the public and private sector, all united to hail the opening of Hamaspik Choice.  “It’s really wonderful to see all of these different people come together,” she said.  “I think that’s exactly what we need to do as we’re moving forward with all these changes in order to be successful.”

“I look forward to seeing you grow over the next few years,” she concluded.
State Senator Simcha Felder

Serving the public

Mrs. Katina, back at the stand, called up Waking Goubath, Galina Klym, Nedgibia Bethancourth and Miriam Steinfeld to receive  Employee of the Year awards for 2013.

Those four serve as HamaspikCare home health aides (HHAs) or personal care aides (PCAs), representing not just Rockland’s diverse communities but also Hamaspik’s superlative work.  A total of ten languages are spoken among that quartet—a skill set that came in doubly handy last year, when all four headed out to work in the immediate aftermath of Hurricane Sandy, perilous conditions notwithstanding.

Home Care Association (HCA) President Joanne Cunningham was next invited to share a few words.  “This is indeed a momentous occasion,” she said.  “Hamaspik has seen a need and then constructed a program around meeting that need.”

Ms. Cunningham also acknowledged the presence of Hamaspik’s community partners, including representatives of Good Samaritan Hospital and Dominican Sisters, as well as the new MLTC’s several consultants.

A succession of public servants, all long-time friends and supporters of Hamaspik, then took the stand one after another to share encouragement and congratulations for the new MLTCP.

State Sen. David Carlucci, representing much of Rockland County and also chair of the Senate’s influential Mental Health and Developmental Disabilities Committee, thanked Hamaspik for its service to Rockland’s disabled and needy.

Working the crowd, the energetic young Senator opened with, “Who’s excited about our new program here?  This is really an achievement!”  Commenting on Hamaspik, he said, “The commitment to our community is really telling… and Hamaspik is really stepping up to say, ‘We can do it, and we can do it better.’ ”

As Chairman of the Senate’s Children and Family Services Committee, State Sen. Simcha Felder,  followed his colleague, hailing him for his leadership in general and his mental-health advocacy in particular, not just for Hamaspik but for the entire state.

New Square Deputy Mayor Izzy Spitzer“We’re really here to honor the clients that Hamaspik provides the services for,” he declared, noting that while the happiness of various organizations’ beneficiaries can typically only be witnessed in person, at Hamaspik, it could be seen even in the just-screened video.  “It’s not often that you see that,” he said.

State Assemblywoman Ellen Jaffee first congratulated Hamaspik for its 25th anniversary, also thanking Mr. Wertheimer and Hamaspik Choice leader Yoel Bernath for their leadership.

The Assemblywoman also thanked Hamaspik Choice for helping to meet what she described as a “very real” community need: that of helping seniors and others get the care they need at home.  “I am certain that it will be truly appreciated,” she said.  “Thank you, Hamaspik, for all that you do!”

“We’re delighted to work with Hamaspik,” said Rockland County Social Services Commissioner Sherwood, next up at the podium, speaking on behalf of her colleagues, several of which were also present.  “Everything you do is innovative, kind and successful.”  Ms. Sherwood also pledged her agency’s support and good will.
Rockland County Office of Mental Health Commissioner Tozer next shared her most being impressed by Hamaspik’s rising to the occasion of the “transformative” times.  “I think you provide a roadmap to many others to how to think about this and how to embrace change in this day,” she said.

Mr. Moshe Yisroel “Izzy” Spitzer, Deputy Mayor of the New Square village that is home to many Hamaspik beneficiaries, half-joked that “Hamaspik is unprepared and prepared every day for everything that is unprepared”—a complimentary reference to the agency’s ability to adapt to all challenges, expected and otherwise.

Credit where credit due

With public servants having spoken, Emcee Katina delivered a substantial introduction to the hardworking and affable Yoel Bernath, Executive Director of the Hamaspik Choice MLTC.

A Who's Who of Health Care and Hamaspik VIPs“We’re celebrating today with the hundreds and hopefully thousands of individuals, the future Hamaspik Choice members, who will join our plan and benefit daily from the remarkable high-quality and compassionate services expected from Hamaspik Choice,” said Bernath.

The Director also singled out Hamaspik Founder Meyer Wertheimer for special praise, thanking him for his ongoing support and encouragement of the entire Hamaspik Choice process.

Mr. Bernath next thanked all the public servants and other professionals who made the new MLTC possible, including Tim Hardyc of M&T Bank and Simcha Eichenstein of the State Comptroller’s Office.

Special mention was made of the  presence of Mr. Shaya Wercberger, currently treasurer with the Kiryas Joel Union Free School District and long-time former Hamaspik leader.

Andrea Valk of the New York State Dept. of Health’s Bureau of Managed Long-Term Care was then singled out for praise.  While the state official could not attend, “she has helped us in every step of the way,” Bernath said, in doing so serving as “an example of an outstanding public servant.”

He also thanked the members of Hamaspik Choice’s provider network, and likewise acknowledged the greater Hamaspik Choice team, including Director of Patient Services Chaya Back, R.N., Enrollment Coordinator Raizy Mermelstein, Provider Relations Coordinator Beilu Schwartz, and Medical Director Abraham Berger, M.D.

Not going without mention were also Hamaspik of Rockland County IT and Maintenance Manager Aaron Rubinstein, Director of Development Zalman Stein, Emcee Katina, Hamaspik Terrace manager Zishe Lowy, and Hamaspik Choice staffers Marty Follman and Blimy Adler for making the event the great success that it was.

“We celebrate here today, but we’re back to work tomorrow,” said Bernath.  “And with all your help, we look forward to serve and support those who are in need with appropriate services through Hamaspik Choice so that they can continue living in their own homes and communities, enjoying the best quality of life… We look forward to working with all of you in the future.”

Looking forward

Veteran Rockland County Legislator Phil Soskin, for many years a friend of Hamaspik, next shared a few thoughts.

First congratulating the agency and its Founder for the 25th-anniversary milestone, Mr. Soskin said that the event also celebrates the future of Hamaspik, an agency that is “helping so many… people live their lives out in peace and comfort and dignity.”  And in a welcome surprise, the legislator declared that the four HamapikCare honorees would be getting certificates of recognition from the Rockland County Legislature in honor of their good work.

“Hamaspik—you’re the best!” quipped Rockland County Legislator Aaron Wieder, speaking next, repeating verbatim a statement made on the video presentation by an agency beneficiary.

The legislator then mentioned being the heavily-influenced grandchild of four Holocaust survivors, contrasting Nazi Germany with the United States in general and New York State in particular—specifically in light of the fact that the Final Solution began not with the Jews but with the late-1930s gassing of Germany’s disabled, Jew and Gentile alike.

“When you come to an event like this, and you see how the mentally challenged are so celebrated in our society, in our country, it just makes me so proud to be an American Jew,” Wieder said.
“Always remember—no matter what the weather, always bring your own sunshine,” said Mrs. Katina in formally closing the event.

The crowd then slowly broke up, socializing as it made its way out the door and on to the rest of its day.
Speaking to one of the four Employee of the Year awardees immediately after the event’s close, the Gazette congratulated Mr. Waking Goubath, a strapping, earnest immigrant from Haiti, for his achievement.

Party’s over, isn’t it?

Mr. Goubath seconded that sentiment, but added that he was going back to work that very afternoon—and that he had put in two hours that very morning, before the event.

But then again, that’s not surprising.  He works for Hamaspik.