For as long as I can remember, I’ve been going to the emergency room with every illness, ailment, or injury that couldn’t be cured with a home remedy. It was just something my mother told me to do. In fact, I believed it was the only option for immediate medical treatment. I should have figured out that it wasn’t the best choice when they often sent me home with nothing more than ibuprofen and a huge bill. But what was my alternative? Make an appointment with my primary care doctor 3 months away? Why was it that every time that I got sick with the flu, food poisoning, or even a UTI, I thought that my only option was to rush 11 train stops down to a hospital for treatment? Why did no one tell me I could have received the same treatment a block away from my apartment at urgent care?

 

These questions remained unanswered for 30 years until my coworker asked me to work on this op-ed piece for human resources on the difference between going to the emergency room versus urgent care at a clinic. Wait…there’s a difference?!

 

The emergency room does have its benefits (24/7 service and a team of specialized doctors on hand being among them), and it does appear to be the most obvious choice. However, when you look at the average time it takes for you to complete a visit, you are looking at 2-3 hours at the ER versus a 30-minute at an urgent care.

 

I have my own personal experience with this excessive wait time. I used to spend half my day at the hospital waiting patiently for my name to get called. When it did, I would jump up, maybe a little too enthusiastically, and bear the stares of everyone watching as I went into the second area. It almost made me feel as if I had won something just by getting called, “yes! I had been chosen.”

 

If the wait time doesn’t put you off, maybe the cost will. On average a visit to the ER can run you from $1,300, the 2017 average, to $2,200, the average recorded in 2021 by United Health. It seems a bit high for a sore throat. In comparison, the average cost of a UC visit is exponentially less, running at about $100-$150 depending on the insurance and level of treatment. In fact, it is at the insurance company’s discretion to decide what constitutes “life-threatening” and “non-urgent.”

 

So, I will break it down. Flu and cold symptoms not life-threatening, ear infection not life-threatening, bronchitis not life-threatening, UTI painful, but not life-threatening, so what is life-threatening? Severe chest pains, paralysis, shortness of breath, vaginal bleeding with pregnancy, poisoning, allergic reactions, and unconsciousness, to name a few. Advice to remember, if the condition is not life-threatening, but needs treatment today, head to urgent care.

 

While it is easy to read this opinion piece and forget it a day later, ask yourself this question, do I want to go into crippling financial debt? I have been there. No, you don’t. So, think of this the next time the seasonal flu catches up to you and you need some ibuprofen.

WellLife Sets a High Bar for Services at Station Road Day Habilitation Program

 

We recently sat down with Syndie Leonard-Hamm, a Program Site Director with WellLife Network’s Developmental Disabilities Division. Syndie manages four WellLife Day Habilitation (Day Hab) programs located throughout Queens. These sites include Station Road, Long Island City Day Hab, Queens Without Walls, and Lennox Without Walls. We met Syndie at the Station Road program, which currently serves 122 individuals who have Intellectual/Development Disabilities (I/DD). Defining Success: According to Syndie, “success is all about the small wins.” She told us about a client who came to WellLife Network with extreme behavior issues. This person would throw herself on the ground, rip her clothes, scream, and display self-inflicting behavior (SIB). Around the same time, a non-verbal individual joined the program. This person was unable to control their aggression toward staff and exhibited SIB. Today, both are model program participants who meaningfully engage in classroom activities with zero behavioral issues. “The other day (the non-verbal participant) came up to me, shook my hand and said, ‘hi.’ She is extremely introverted so having her come up to me like that was a major milestone,” said Syndie. This type of transformation is common at Station Road and a testament to the tremendous work of Syndie and her dedicated staff.

 

A Day in the Life of Syndie:

We met Syndie on a cold February day in Queens, NY. She sported a long-sleeved pastel pink shirt, blue jeans, fuzzy socks, and black crocs. Her disarming charm and warmth made us feel instantly welcomed. Southern hospitality is one of the many personable attributes that she maintains from her upbringing in Florida. As the Program Director, Syndie keeps vigilant supervision over the participants and staff at each of her facilities. She starts her day at 7:00 AM by greeting everyone who enters the facility at Station Road. By 8:00 AM, she is covering staff, making sure everything in the facility is organized, clean, and in working order. At 9:00 AM, she goes over meetings, schedules, billing, and administrative work for the four facilities she manages. Then, it’s back to doing rounds. Sometimes she sits in the classroom to observe or help her staff. Other times, she works one-on-one with clients.

Overcoming Adversity During COVID-19:

In the midst of the pandemic, Syndie made it her mission to keep Station Road’s doors open as other facilities around her were closing. She attributes the mass closures of other Day Hab programs to a failure to adapt in the wake of COVID restrictions. “Many companies have suffered. A lot of people don’t want to come back after COVID. I try my best with remote learning,” she said, “managers have problems with it because their staff isn’t tech-savvy, or they didn’t want to sit with the participants to explain it to them.”

But in a short time, Syndie got her team up to speed. She even took it upon herself to go out and deliver iPads and tablets for the families of WellLife participants so they could engage in virtual classroom activities. According to Syndie, “it was either that, or we closed our doors,” and closing the doors was not an option for her.

 

Initially, not all the families were on board. Some gave Syndie pushback. However, giving up is not in Syndie’s nature. she set out to teach families how to use the technology, going as far as making regular house visits to ensure that everyone was able to embrace this new model of service delivery.

 

Unfortunately, not everything can be done virtually. Prior to COVID Station Road, was heavily recreational, taking participants to museums, carnivals, buffets, and more. They have since had to cut out all trips, but they hope to bring back a few events while maintaining COVID protocols. While the world continues to adjust, Syndie keeps her ideas bubbling as she patiently waits for the day that things can go back to normal.

 

Closing Thoughts:

As I sat down to speak to Sydnie, we talked about her journey to WellLife Network. “I began in foster care prevention where I worked teaching parenting classes and mending families back together,” she said, “I was always a people person, so I’m not surprised I ended up working with people.” After working in the mental health field, she landed a position at WellLife, where she started as a Senior Medicaid Service Coordinator on Feb. 15, 2007.

 

Walking around the facility, Syndie reiterated the importance of making a home for the participants at Station Road. She pointed to all the bulletin boards full of photos of staff and participants that she puts up, seemingly trying to put some soul into the place. All the boards with different titles, Station Road Day Heart, Station Road at the Red Carpet, Station Road Reading Group, Station Road Day Trips, all have a story to tell. Among the bulletin boards, there are pictures with beautiful sceneries, inspirational quotes, and paintings created by past participants.

 

While many have left the field in recent months, Syndie continues to find new ways to make her program better. She knows that this job isn’t for everyone and noted that, “I love what I do, not for the paycheck, but for the joy of it. It’s the little things that make a difference.”

 

This past Tuesday, Feb 15, marked the 15-year anniversary since Syndie started at WellLife. We are so incredibly proud to have her on the team!

 

 

 

Our DEI Committee has been hard at work putting together new policies and work plans for our agency to be the best we can be in treating everyone in a diverse, equitable, and inclusive manner. As part of that work, they have prepared a statement for WellLife Network to share in regard to this important recognition of a big part of our country’s history.

 

Black history is American history. From slavery to the Civil War, to the Civil Rights Movement and beyond, the collective struggles and triumphs of the black community is truly awe-inspiring. In honor of Black History Month, WellLife Network celebrates the progress that has been made in fostering a society that believes people should be judged by the content of their character and not the color of their skin. But we also reflect on just how fragile this progress is, and how every inch of ground that was fought for can slip away without vigilance.

 

We are seeing this play out in real time. Talking about race and racism in America is becoming increasingly politicized. But this should not be a controversial or political issue. We should not try to erase the sins of our past by ignoring their existence. Instead, we should have the hard conversations that push the needle of progress forward and ensure that the American ideals of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness are accessible for everyone.

 

Democracy is indeed fragile and to grow we must understand and accept where we started as a nation and where we want to be, now and in the future. We must acknowledge that injustices exists and honor those who overcome seemingly insurmountable obstacles to fight for a more fair and equitable society.

 

Joe joined the WellLife Network Community over a decade when he enrolled in services at our program in Great Neck, NY.  Recently, we had the pleasure of interviewing Joe who expressed his deep appreciation for WellLife. Appreciation because as a long-time participant, he has experienced the best of what our programs have to offer, including dedicated counselors, a connection to his community, job training and placement services, and above all, a safe place where he can get help when he needs it.

 

Through WellLife Clean Corp, an innovative employment program, Joe has been able to secure employment as a porter in one of WellLife Network’s location in Great Neck where he has worked for the past 11 years.  This program specializes in job training and employment that aims to deliver a trained and certified workforce. According to  Clean Corp. Manager, Kevin Bartels, “Joe has always been a diligent and dedicated employee,” citing his utmost admiration for him.

 


Scott and Joe hard at work

 

At WellLife, Joe has been able to foster friendships and make the most out of the program’s recreational events. One of those friendships being Scott, a fellow porter and participant of WellLife Network. “I would get along with all the clients, it was nice to work with the staff and basically everyone,” Scott said, after I asked him how his experience at the Great Neck location was. Upon speaking to both, I realized that they had an immense respect and admiration for one another. Scott said Joe was an amazing partner to work with and Joe called him the “Rice Krispy man of the year” for his affinity to the sweet treat.

 

When asked what his experience with WellLife is, Joe said,” I like being a client and worker here. It gives me a little extra feeling that I am trying to do a little something better for my program and I’m still able to bring a paycheck home.” When asked what his favorite part of the program was, he said, “the mentoring, especially right now cause I’m able to be here even with the pandemic.” Joe, a graduate of the Vocational Services Project, said he is now looking into one of WellLife’s retreats to take a small vacation and get away for a bit.

 

Ander Jones Wins NYSID Award
"Named 2021 William B. Joslin
Outstanding Performer"

 

Ander Jones, a WellLife Clean Corp. employee, was recently awarded the coveted William B. Joslin Outstanding Performer Award. In its 18th year, this award is given to 58 New Yorkers statewide, employed on NYSID Preferred Source contracts. All Outstanding Performers receive a certificate of achievement, a cash award, and are featured in an annual yearbook.

A Dedicated Worker who has Overcome Life's Challenges

Sherry Tucker, CEO, WellLife Network, commented, “We are thrilled that NYSID has recognized Ander Jones and for his dedication to working and work ethic. He has overcome personal challenges and embraces the concept of teamwork.” Employed by Clean Corp. since the fall of  2015, Ander completed his training at WellLife's Vocational Services department.  

Ander is a role model and mentor to his co-workers and is greatly admired by the customers he serves. He is highly skilled in various janitorial and groundskeeping procedures and possesses excellent judgment, leadership, and communication skills in providing services to NYSID State contracts.

 

Teamwork is Ander’s code word for success. He always goes above and beyond to assist his co-workers whenever challenging projects arise", noted Kevin Bartels, Manager, WellLife Clean Corp. He also takes the time to mentor someone who may be struggling to complete their daily tasks. Ander understands high-priority objectives and works diligently to achieve customer satisfaction. His time management and organizational skills are impeccable.

Congratulations Ander Jones, WellLife Network is proud of your accomplishments.

 

Clean Corp. Successfully Trains Workers for the Workforce 

This year Clean Corp, a subsidiary of WellLife Network, has trained some 49 individuals for the workforce and assisted WellLife Network Vocational Services in placing  49 candidates in competitive employment positions. For more information on WellLife Network's vocational services, click the link below.

 

WellLife Network Celebrates
World Mental Health Day

"This is a great day in many ways," exclaimed Patricia R., a resident of one of WellLife Network's 145 homes and apartments who gathered at Garden Hair & Beauty Salon in Forest Hills, NY to celebrate World Mental Health Day. "Today we are here at the hair salon with Leo, the owner, to relax and look amazing! I saw the photos of my friends who had a makeover here last year and they looked fantastic. We are proud to support one another," exclaimed Carmen G., a resident at one of WellLife Network's housing alternatives.  

 

Supporting Health, Education, Awareness, and Advocacy Against the Stigma of Mental Health Illness

World Mental Health Day is celebrated annually on October 10th to highlight issues of global mental health education, awareness, and advocacy against the social stigma of mental health illnesses. Treatment and support are available for those who need it—and the door to conversation must always remain open. For the individuals who had a makeover, the day was a time to relax and enjoy the feeling of being special. The Garden Hair & Beauty Salon donated 10% of its sales on October 10th to WellLife Network. Customers who participated on that day instantly received a profile of a family or individual whose life is being transformed by one of WellLife's mental health programs.

 

Leo, the principal of Garden Hair & Beauty Salon and a good friend of WellLife Network, examines a participant's hair to determine the best cut and style. 

Through WellLife Network's residential, day, care coordination, and vocational training programs, thousands of individuals learn to cope more effectively with their mental health issues while gaining greater independence. The project was initiated by Crystal John, Vice President, Behavioral Health Residential programs.

Pat R., a participant remarked, "We all face the angst of life, especially with the COVID virus that has plagued our community. Now we have one day to relax and get our hair in order and face revitalized. It feels and looks awesome."

Voila . . . "I feel beautiful and well. What a difference. Thanks for inviting me. Corrine, the makeup artist did an amazing job!", boasted Angelina G.

Honoring Traditions - Celebrating Differences

Makeover participants were treated to a healthy lunch. Each resident was encouraged to participate in a discussion that focused on how they feel and look after the makeover experience.

Fostering Communication and Trust

WellLife Network offers a broad range of behavioral health residential and other services to some 25,000 individuals and families each year who face mental health, developmental disabilities and substance use challenges. For further information on WellLife Network's Behavioral Health services click the button below. 

 

 

Special thanks to Thomas J. Grech, President, and CEO, Queens Chamber of Commerce, and his fifteen industrious volunteers. They transformed the WellLife's Maspeth residence into a beautiful retreat. The results were amazing!

 

107 Corporate and Staff Volunteers Change the Landscape at Homes and Facilities across New York and Long Island

 

“This is such a wonderful opportunity to give back to the community," exclaimed Patrick Solberg, CFA, Associate, HSBC, and President of WellLife's Associate Board. He was one of the 107 volunteers who gathered at 18 locations across New York City and Long Island to lend a hand to WellLife Network’s Project Volunteer Day on May 21. These energetic volunteers are accountants, managers, financial experts, sales reps, counselors, caseworkers, administrative assistants, and more. They are people who wanted to give back and gave freely of their time and some muscle power.
 

The volunteers had one common goal – to beautify the residences and facilities of WellLife Network through enhancing the landscape by planting flowers and vegetable gardens.

 

Sherry Tucker, CEO, WellLife Network, and the industrious staff of our Maspeth residence transformed an ordinary backyard into an awesome garden paradise! The staff remembered residents who have passed away with specially carved stones gracing two of the planters.

 

Corporate and Staff Volunteers Made the Difference

 

It was a sun-drenched day as our Well Life volunteers mulched, weeded, tilled the soil, planted hundreds of perennials, and spread an impressive 13,000 pounds of mulch at residences for individuals with special needs and mental health challenges! The results were amazing, and their efforts enhanced the agency’s residential sites and neighborhoods with 15 new vegetable gardens and 13 new raised beds.

 

We especially want to thank 15 special volunteers from The Queens Chamber of Commerce who gave selflessly of their time and energy and to Thomas J. Grech, President & Chief Executive Officer, who visited our Maspeth residence to greet and thank his volunteers. We also wish to thank Joanne Persad, Chief of Operations, Queens Chamber of Commerce, who organized the volunteers for WellLife. 

 

A special shout out to Emerald Lawn Care Services, Inc. who prepared the beds and manicured bushes and vegetation at several homes.

 

New annuals at the front entrance of our Beech Avenue residence in Flushing are beautiful and transform this WellLife home into a "standout" on the block.

 

VIEW ALBUM HERE

 

 

Supporting Health, Education, Awareness, and Advocacy Against the Stigma of Mental Health Illness

 

May is Mental Health Month. By reaching out to millions of people through the media, local events, and screenings, WellLife Network joins our partners in the health and human services field in spreading the word that mental health is something everyone should care about. Treatment and support are available for those who need it—and the door to "conversation" must always remain open.

 

The COVID-19 pandemic has had a profound impact on the mental health of people of all ages. Now, more than ever, it is critical to reduce the stigma around mental health struggles, because that stigma often prevents individuals from seeking help. WellLife Fosters Communication and Trust WellLife Network offers a broad range of behavioral health services, including residential, care coordination, and clinical treatment services to some 25,000 individuals and families each year who face mental health challenges. WellLife also offers a wide array of services for individuals in need of developmental disabilities services; vocational training; and substance use and gambling addiction services.

 

For further information on WellLife Network's Behavioral Health services click the button below.

WellLife Network BH Services

 

Mental Health Toolkit Promotes Wellbeing

 

Mental Health America, (MHA) a community-based nonprofit, is dedicated to addressing the needs of those living with mental illness and promoting the overall mental health of individls. It has developed a Mental Health Toolkit that we would like to share with you. It is called Tools 2 Thrive, and it provides practical tools that everyone can use to improve their mental health and increase their resiliency regardless of their personal situation.

 

The toolkit includes handouts on the following topics:

 

• Adapting after trauma and stress

• Dealing with anger and frustration

• Getting out of thinking traps

• Processing big changes

• Taking time for yourself

• Radical acceptance

 

DOWNLOAD TOOLS 2 THRIVE

 

"We salute our outstanding WellLife Network nurses who are on the front lines during the COVID-19 pandemic. They are providing the highest level of quality and compassionate care to the people we serve." — Leonard White, RN, Director of Nursing

 

Today, May 6th is National Nurses Day. On this day, we raise awareness of all nurses and their contributions and commitments and also acknowledge the vital role they play in society.

 

An Integral Part of Our Frontline Healthcare Workers

 

WellLife Network nurses are an essential part of our first responders and other frontline healthcare and essential workers who are facing adversity with the COVID-19 pandemic every day. We laud and thank them with praise and recognition for their rising to the challenge and providing the highest level of quality care to the individuals we serve. Our nursing staff deserves special recognition for their efforts in delivering compassionate care while encompassing the principles of ethical practice in their profession.

 

As your Director of Nursing, I could not do my job as efficiently or effectively without your continued dedication and support. The entire Executive Staff joins me in thanking you for the devotion you provide to the people we serve.

 

National Nurses Week is celebrated annually from May 6-12, also known as National Nurses Day, and commemorates the birthday of Florence Nightingale, the founder of modern nursing.

 

March is Women’s History Month. It is also National Social Work Month. WellLife is proud of all of our staff, but we pay special tribute to our social workers who help the people who come to our doors solve and cope with problems in their everyday lives. WellLife’s team of social workers confront some of the most challenging issues facing communities and society and forge solutions that help people reach their full potential.

 

To honor National Women’s History Month and National Social Work Month, we reflect on the life of Dr. Antonia Pantoja, a Latina social worker who, prior to her passing in 2012, was regarded as one of the most important leaders in the United States.

 

Antonia Pantoja was born in San Juan, Puerto Rico in 1922. She moved to New York City in 1944 where she studied sociology at Hunter College before obtaining her master’s degree from the Columbia University School of Social Work. In 1973, she received a Ph.D. from Union Graduate School. Shortly after, she joined the faculty of the School of Social Work at San Diego State University where she founded the Graduate School of Community Development, an institution that serves communities and neighborhoods throughout the nation.

 

During her career, Dr. Pantoja was involved in a variety of community and professional organizations, all working toward the goal of building stronger communities for marginalized people. These included the Ford Foundation, the National Urban Coalition, the Museo del Barrio, the National Association of Social Workers, the Council on Social Work Education, to name a few. 

 

Dr. Pantoja was a charismatic and visionary leader. In 1997 she received the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the nation’s highest civilian honor, from President Clinton during a ceremony at the White House. In his speech, President Clinton praised her work as founder of ASPIRA, an organization that promotes cultural pride, education, leadership training and community service for Latino youth. He also recognized her role in founding the National Puerto Rico Forum and Boricua College.

 

“Peace and respect – these are the values that define the work of Antonia Pantoja” Clinton said in presenting the award. “Her contributions to her people and, therefore, our country are unsurpassed,” he added, calling Pantoja “the most respected and loved member of the Puerto Rican community.” “The impact of her work and her contributions to our community has had reverberations so profound and so broad that for generations to come, she will continue to be an inspiration for young Puerto Ricans,” declared then NASW Executive Director Josephine Nieves at a reception following the presentation.

 

We thank Dr. Pantoja who serves as an inspiration and all of WellLife’s social workers for the outstanding job they perform each and every day to help individuals and families achieve their life’s goals of health and wellness for life.

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