Politicians back psych programs

By Ayala Ben-Yehuda

The staff at Pride of Judea Community Services got some good news about Medicaid funding from local lawmakers Friday at the Douglaston mental health agency’s annual legislative and community breakfast.

State Sen. Frank Padavan (R-Bellerose), state Assemblyman Mark Weprin (D-Little Neck), Councilman David Weprin (D-Hollis) and Queens social service providers listened to Pride of Judea staffers tout their new programs at the non-sectarian organization’s Northern Boulevard headquarters.

Social worker Karen LoPresti, administrative supervisor at Pride of Judea, and Dr. Blaine Greenwald of Zucker Hillside Hospital expressed concern over the state’s new requirement that Medicaid pay for Club Pride clients.

Club Pride is a socialization group for older adults with mental illness. Participants receive transportation and have their medication managed by the Pride of Judea staff, who serve as a bridge between inpatient care and independent life.

Only one-third of Club Pride participants are eligible for Medicaid, said LoPresti, and if their care must be paid for by Medicaid, then the agency would have to discharge two-thirds of them, she said.

“We really need your help,” LoPresti said to the lawmakers. “Removing this program is really going to cause havoc in the community.”

Greenwald, a geriatric psychiatrist, called Club Pride “a heroic gem of a program” in fighting depression among the elderly.

But Padavan reassured the staffers that funding for Club Pride would be “revenue-neutral,” meaning it would not have to come from Medicaid.

“They realize it’s not a cookie cutter” program, said the senator, who promised to press Pride’s case with the commissioner of the state Office of Mental Health.

Padavan and Weprin said they were fighting to pass Timothy’s Law, which would require health insurance companies to provide parity between mental and physical health coverage.

Padavan said he expected the bill to pass the Legislature before the current session ends.

Pride of Judea Director Paula Held outlined the agency’s accomplishments in the last year, which include the hiring of five Hebrew-speaking social workers to serve Orthodox Jews, as well as new Sunday hours.

“If this were an ideal world, programs would be based on consumer needs, not funding sources,” Held said.

Reach reporter Ayala Ben-Yehuda by e-mail at news@timesledger.com or call 718-229-0300, Ext. 146.

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