Radio Bold News Health Care Heroes Podcast


Speaker 1 (00:02):

You’re listening to the Radio Bold News Pod. I’m Mike Sakell, taking you beyond the headlines and introducing you to interesting people and happenings here in Sullivan County, New York, and throughout the Catskills in Hudson Valley. Today on the Radio Bold News Pod, we will hear about how the COVID Pandemic brought out the best in our local human services organization dedicated to empowering the lives of men and women with intellectual and other developmental disabilities. Joining us now, we have health heroes from New Hope Community, a leading human services agency based in Loch Sheldrake serving men and women who have intellectual and developmental disabilities. New Hope has been an important part of the Sullivan County community for over 45 years, and they take a person-centered approach in all they do, committed to good health and wellness, not only within their organization but throughout the greater community. They are our health heroes and we welcome three fantastic health heroes.

Speaker 1 (01:01):

Good to talk about this. I’m very excited about this. You know, we talk about our Sullivan 180 Health Heroes and, and truly within the community,  I think New Hope is one of the stellar organizations that have, that have been doing so much above and beyond as as many have. In, in Sullivan County. Debra McGinness, the CEO of New Hope Community, started out as a pediatric registered nurse, specialized in the field of intellectual and developmental disabilities. Been doing that Debbie, since the mid eighties, founded in and led three successful organizations specializing in human services, staffing, healthcare, and community support. The most recent organization, Select Human Services, founded in 2010, and you joined the New Hope Family Westchester County Division back in 2020 with a a merger. Of course, new Hope Community has expanded its Hudson Valley footprint, as well as its array of diverse services offerings to include community habilitation in-home respite, and self-direction services.

Speaker 1 (02:00):

Also with us, Karen Kerendian and Director of Health Services. Karen manages a staff of 27, many of whom are caseload RNs responsible for the medical care and oversight of every individual at New Hope. Her department conducts trainings for individuals and staff and contributes to an overall healthy environment. Karen led the coordination of the administration of the COVID 19 vaccination for individuals and staff at both Garnet Health and five clinics that were held at New Hope. And also with us is Muriel Cypert, a registered nurse and nurse educator at New Hope Community. For nearly 20 years, Muriel has been leading the health education programs for staff and individuals in addition to supporting the health needs and healthy initiatives for everyone. And welcome to everyone here today. Great to have you. Debbie, let’s begin with you as CEO of New Hope Community. Tell us a little bit about New Hope Community.

Speaker 2 (02:55):

Oh, absolutely. Thank you, Mike. Well, we challenge ourselves to enhance the lives of people with intellectual and other developmental disabilities, and we really strive to optimize their health and wellness. We have about 42 residential programs. We have a tremendous diverse array of supports in place that really aim at giving people the opportunity to live their best life. So we want lives that really speak to what their interests are, what their goals are. We want to be able to support them in the development of meaningful relationships, and we really want to work with our communities and give opportunities to the people we support so that they can really have roles of social value within their community. We really are leaders in terms of being innovative and best practices. We actually just rolled out a telemedicine grant-based program in October of last year throughout 28 of our residences. So that was a very dynamic tool to really enhance the holistic health of people along life’s continuum, because we have anywhere from people in their early twenties all the way up into their eighties, and I think we might have even hit 90 mm-hmm. <Affirmative>. So it’s, it’s, it’s a pretty amazing place.

Speaker 1 (04:21):

Yeah. Yeah. That’s terrific. And, and I want to dig deep a little bit more into, into this and talk a little bit about what are some of the, the services and the opportunities that you provide at New Hope Community.

Speaker 2 (04:33):

Sure. Our supported employment program is fantastic, and we have a lot of people that call New Hope home, that go out and are gainfully employed with businesses in our community, in fact, like here, because we provide janitorial support to Bold Gold in a work environment that they enjoy. We have a really dynamic equestrian program. We have horses on campus in our McCoy Stables and have some cool riding things going on. We are opening up a sensory garden this fall on our main campus, which is going to be a beautiful, peaceful, therapeutic outdoor space. We have day habilitation one of our day hab programs is called Wow Without Walls, and they do a lot of volunteer work in the community, and it’s really about meaningful community engagement self-direction where people choose how to spend their money that they get through Medicaid and the state so that they can really have a life that has the most personal meaning to them. We’re always growing and changing, and I think we’re a very dynamic group of people that work together and the folks that we support, they’re incredible.

Speaker 1 (05:54):

Well, you know, I I, I know you started the vaccination programs towards the tail end of the year. It’s been quite an effort and, and we’ll be talking more about that during the program. But at the same time, and I have to, to really highlight this New Hope Community is so active in the, in the Sullivan County community, and that’s, that’s really, really very special. You hosted a holiday drive up dinner, you had a supermarket gift card giveaway this holiday season. Talk a little bit about that because those, those are just some of the connections between New Hope and, and the community as a whole.

Speaker 2 (06:29):

Yeah, I think that New Hope community, it’s it really matters to us that we contribute to our community and we say we’re stronger together. And I think our health, our wellness opportunities, what we can do for positive change, we do it together both within New Hope Community and our community at large. So we have done quite a few outreach projects that I think have been tremendously meaningful both to us and the people that are a part of it on the receiving end. We did have a community outreach drive through dinner this year because of COVID. Yeah, it’s the third annual. We’ve had several hundred hot meals that we’ve provided free of charge. We’ve also, with that given $25 ShopRite gift cards. And it means a lot to us to do this because we know there is a level of food insecurity throughout rural areas in upstate New York to include the Catskills and Sullivan County. We have been supportive to our Head Start program. We bring in their trick or treaters at Halloween, of course, for COVID this year, we weren’t able to do that. We adopt kids during the holidays and buy gifts for them. We support food pantries. We did a sock drive, we did winter accessories where we’re pinning mittens and hats and gloves to a tree in our front lobby giveaway purposes. And it means a lot to us. I mean, we’ve got to connect and show our greater community that we care. We’re in this together.

Speaker 1 (08:00):

Well, it’s, it’s terrific. And you were all, or I guess, new Hope as a whole, and you were all named as Sullivan 180 Health Heroes for all you do to keep others healthy. I, I’m going to go around the the room here and I’ll start with you. Debbie. Tell me a little bit about what does this Health Heroes recognition mean to you personally?

Speaker 2 (08:20):

It means a lot because I think that health is so critically important to a person’s quality of life. And I think being recognized for the fact that we get that, and I think we do a lot to contribute to optimal health and wellness. So, you know, we partner with Garnet Health in some very meaningful ways that support people’s health and the things that our nursing department, our clinical department, I mean, all the people that are staff at New Hope Community and including the outreach that we have with the community, a lot of it is about health. I mean, let’s face it, if people aren’t healthy, if they don’t have a good quality of life because they lack health and wellness, then that affects all of us. So it’s it means a lot to us.

Speaker 1 (09:07):

Well, Karen, Karen Kerendian, Director of Health Services, of course you manage your staff of 27, but what does the Health Hero recognition mean to you?

Speaker 3 (09:17):

I agree with Deb, everything. We are definitely appreciate the recognition. Just being a part of a county that’s starting to look at putting health forward and working together with other organizations, it’s, it’s just going to benefit everybody. And we work so hard at our facility to make sure that the individuals and staff alike are afforded anything that we can put forward to keep them healthy.

Speaker 1 (09:45):

Well, that’s certainly some special thoughts there. Muriel Cypert, you, you’re a Registered Nurse, you’re also a Nurse Educator at New Hope Community. Your thoughts on what the Health Heroes recognition means to you?

Speaker 4 (09:57):

Well, I think first I wanted to say I am proud to be a part of the New Hope family as far as COVID and stuff. We knew early on that we needed to protect our staff, and we needed to protect our folks that live there. So we went to work right away with the support of everybody at New Hope. And then we also help support our community by giving out masks, making masks for our community and stuff. So we New Hope is a big part of our community and it, and it makes me very proud to be a part of that.

Speaker 1 (10:33):

I’m going to go back to to Karen Keredian again, Director of Health Services. And Karen. Talk to me a little bit about some of the specifics. What are some of the health services that you provide at New Hope Community?

Speaker 3 (10:45):

Well, the health services, I mean, it begins with recognizing everything we need to know about an individual and then ensuring that all of those needs are met. So as, as we said earlier, we have caseload RNs and they’re responsible for working and ensuring that all of the medical needs are met. But I think that it’s kind of bigger than that. We, we are looking to empower body, mind, and spirit. And some of the ways we are looking to the future is we have New Hope Farm and it has beautiful organic vegetables. We are making sure that we can put that to use, we are open to other options that may not always be, you know, medical and in sense, but if it’s going to benefit the individuals, we look at it and we Deb talked a little bit about telehealth. Telehealth is so new to us as it’s new to many people that needed to all of a sudden start using it. But that in and of itself has, has allowed individuals to be seen, but not necessarily have to go out either in the cold or be exposed to, you know, a medical office or a hospital. So those kind of things are what we’re looking to.

Speaker 1 (12:00):

And you offer health services on campus as well? Beyond and in the community quite a footprint as, as well with New Hope Community. It’s not just at the facility itself and right. Including the telemed.

Speaker 3 (12:13):

Right. We have many homes throughout Sullivan County and then the homes that we have right on campus. So yes, it is a big footprint.

Speaker 1 (12:21):

Let’s talk a little bit about how COVID 19 affected your organization. Karen, maybe you, you can speak to that. And it’s amazing to think it’s been almost a year now. We’re heading to an anniversary of first year anniversary that, that we first heard about and, and started dealing with COVID 19, no doubt affected your organization, affected New Hope Community. What are some of the things that, that you did to respond to the COVID 19 pandemic?

Speaker 3 (12:48):

Well, I think we were fortunate that we started really early in the effort to get ahead of this. I know my supervisor, Karen Russell, who was our COO, she monitored everything. I mean, she knew where the cases were across the country and was monitoring that. So, and it, and funny when you say almost a year, because it, Sunday, March 15th, was the first day that we actually brought out our masks and asked staff to start wearing them. So we, we got ahead of this by battening down the hatches, like pretty much closing down our houses, you know, eliminating people, coming and going, training our staff, educating, cleaning, getting the right PPE equipment and just constantly being on vigil and monitoring everything to do with COVID 19.

Speaker 1 (13:38):

And Debbie, maybe you could speak to it as the CEO at New Hope Community, you actually said that there were even some positive things that, that came out to this. I mean, in terms of the staff, really, I think that’s a big reason why we’re, we’re here thinking about you as Health Heroes. Talk to me a little bit overall about how COVID 19 affected new Hope community.

Speaker 2 (13:58):

Yeah. Well, you know, it’s funny because a lot of people say that sometimes you don’t necessarily see it coming, but negative circumstances can really have positive impacts. And I think we really have witnessed that at New Hope Community. I mean, I would be remiss if I painted this with a totally positive brush because clearly, as you said, we’re coming up on a year and we run 42 residential programs 24/7. And this has been, I think, the biggest challenge in New Hope Community’s life. And we’re more than 45 years old. Mm-Hmm. <Affirmative>. So there’s a lot that has happened here where people have gotten weary. It’s, oh, you have a positive case now you don’t, oh, now you have a couple more. Now you don’t. It’s this never changing dynamic that can really wear people down. But the positive is that we have learned so much through this.

Speaker 2 (14:55):

People have become creative, the activities we’ve come up with, ways that people can engage with one another, still stay connected with their families. The opportunity to people dug deep. They just reached out to support each other. I think people showed a flexibility that was absolutely amazing. There was a resilience, a commitment. We’ve come up with new ways of doing things, some of which may stay with us post COVID because we’re like, Hey, guess what? We could actually do this differently and maybe it’s better. So I sit here and I look at Muriel and I look at Karen and I am telling you in the Mask Avengers, which I’m sure we’ll touch on, oh yeah. When they got going with making thousands and thousands and thousands of masks together. And I used to pop in and throw chocolate at ’em once in a while and catch up <laugh>, but

Speaker 1 (15:44):

Hey, I do anything and someone throws chocolate at me. That’s, that kept us going.

Speaker 2 (15:47):

It’s an amazing team. Yeah.

Speaker 1 (15:48):

Let’s talk about, let’s talk about that actually, about the the Mask Avengers, because we’ll be hearing a lot about that. And it, it was such a great and inspirational program. So Karen, what, what was your inspiration and tell us a little bit about the Mask Avenger program.

Speaker 3 (16:03):

Yes. Early on, as you’ve heard throughout the country, PPE was in short supply. So as we started rolling out the mask to the homes, we realized that getting our hands on masks may become even more difficult. So we decided to see if we could make our own, brought in sewing machines. We went on YouTube and got patterns. We had a, a group of people that would meet in the conference room. And sew it just went from Muriel and I doing a prototype mm-hmm. <Affirmative> to mm-hmm. <Affirmative>. It blossomed into this unbelievable effort where we actually created 10,000 cloth face masks. It was, it’s amazing.

Speaker 1 (16:47):

So, Muriel, what tell me a little bit about these masks. I mean, did you guys come up with different patterns? Was how, how, how did it all come about?

Speaker 4 (16:55):

That we did, we came up with several different patterns. If you could have seen the first prototype. It was pretty sad. It was some glue and some paper in there. It was, but

Speaker 3 (17:05):

We had red ribbom

Speaker 2 (17:06):


Speaker 1 (17:06):

But it evolved. It evolved.

Speaker 4 (17:08):

It was, it was a pattern to go by. Yeah. And I always say thank God for YouTube. And and I’m, as Karen said though, people brought in their sewing machines. So many staff helped out. And Deb would bring us candy and material and we would just this little group would get together and we’d sew almost from sun up to sundown. And ended up with 10,000 masks. We made masks for our staff. We made masks for their family, even their kids. Those were my favorite. They were the cutest ones. We donated masks to the Loch Sheldrake Fire Department. We donated mass to some of the retail stores to make sure everybody was protected. And as Karen said, it was tough to get supplies. It was very difficult to get supplies. So we’d go all over the place. We’d repurpose anything we could. We took elastic out of fitted bedsheets to make masks. So, you know, and all in all, and I, I shouldn’t say it was fun, but it was fun. We actually enjoyed it. And it kind of made what all that evilness of COVID 19 made it a little bit easier. Mm-Hmm. <Affirmative> and it, it, Deb said just so much that we saw with our staff coming through for us and, and just doing so much and, and just helping out and never complaining. Never complaining

Speaker 1 (18:30):

It was quite a, and, and it has been. And it continues to be quite a stressful time. Yeah. It was in the COVID age. I guess each of you deal with it individually as well within, you know, the work environment. And also Karen, for example, you of course oversee those 27 individuals. You are on the ground as it as it is. What, what, what are some of the things maybe you can, you can give me some thoughts on dealing with dealing with the stress, dealing with the, the current situation and, and how it is you feel that new hope is, is moving forward. 

Speaker 3 (19:07):

I would have to first say when, when we, you watch news coverage and you see nurses as heroes. And that’s, that’s true in a lot of settings. But when you come to a place like New Hope, it is the teams that work in the homes. It’s everybody that works at New Hope. It’s a whole team. And that’s how we’ve been facing down COVID, the nurses, without the support of everybody around us, it, it would be impossible. So it’s a team effort. Like when you say takes a village to raise a child, this was definitely our village at New Hope. And we just rose to the occasion. And it’s been my personal effort to get as many people vaccinated as possible so that we can get, see the other side of this. We want to get out of this, you know, where we have to be so such on, on vigil and, and counting numbers and watching everybody. So that, that’s my goal is to get everybody vaccinated so we can move on. 

Speaker 4 (20:07):

Go back to a normal life.

Speaker 3 (20:07):

Yeah. Yeah. Whatever normal is.

Speaker 1 (20:09):

As we wrap up here, I wanted to maybe talk a little bit about where the vaccination program stands right now.

Speaker 3 (20:15):

Yes. we were fortunate to partner up with Garnet Health, and that’s really how we got started and got off the ground. We, we got many folks vaccinated at Garnet Health, and then we moved with Garnet Health to the campus at New Hope Community to continue the vaccinations. So we have 218 individuals that we support at New Hope that have been vaccinated, and we have about 120 staff, not enough. We need more staff. And that’s what we’ve been working on now, we’re, we’re getting towards the end of the actual clinics we have set up mm-hmm. <Affirmative>, but we’ll continue to work with staff to get them signed up because they are in the groups that it’s available to now. And that, that’s our, our goal.

Speaker 1 (21:01):

From your initial vaccinations, are you and the have has, has everybody gone through their first and second vaccination? 

Speaker 3 (21:08):

Most people have gone through their, a lot of people have gone through their second vaccination. Yes.

Speaker 2 (21:14):

Can I just jump in and say also Walgreens? Yes. Partnered with us as well.

Speaker 3 (21:17):

So our hopes will be to just continue to get people vaccinated and move forward from there. 

Speaker 1 (21:23):

Well, we’re gonna wrap up here and Debbie, I’ll, I’ll leave you with the, the last word. It, it sounds very positive. Well, as, as, as we, as we approach what we hope would be the post COVID world, whatever that might look like at this point Debbie McGinness I’ll, I’ll wrap it up with you and just maybe your thoughts on, on the future of New Hope Community within Sullivan County these days.

Speaker 2 (21:47):

Well, you know, I just, if I could, I just want to go back to one thing, Mike, that you noted earlier. You touched on in terms of resources and people’s stress level. And I do have to say that we’ve really been very mindful of that. And our clinicians and our, our, our nursing staff and resources have been put out to them also through hr. But they’ve been given, I think, a lot of tools to tap into, to really assist with their sense of wellbeing and to help them mindfully minimize stress. Because that’s a huge thing that can obviously be destructive if people aren’t aware of it and, and taking action to minimize that. Sure, sure. Moving forward, oh my gosh, we’re just so excited to resume things that got put on hold because of COVID. I mean, we were building a really cool internship and volunteer program with BOCES and I was working with my wonderful colleague, Robert DeFour, the superintendent of BOCES, and we also have put together a clinical site so that nursing students from SUNY Sullivan can come. And that has sort of taken a little bit of a modified form and we really want to get that back to where it was. There’s a lot of things we’re looking to do with community partners that because we had to have the no visitation policy, and really, as Karen and Muriel said, sort of batten down the hatches when those hatches open up, we are back.

Speaker 1 (23:09):

That’s great. That’s great. Hopefully we’ll be, we’ll be seeing that happening very, very soon. Hope so. Thank you so much. That was a great conversation. Deborah McGinness, CEO of New Hope Community, as well as Muriel Cypert. She’s the Registered Nurse, Nurse Educator, also Karen Kerendian, Director of Health Services, all at New Hope Community. Thank you all for being here. Thank you for being a part of the Radio Bold News Pod. This is Mike Sakell. Thanks for listening to the Radio Bold News Pod. Be back soon with more conversations that you can check out wherever you get your favorite podcast, and always