2011-11-04 / Front Page

PHC You Later

Addabbo Special Ed Program Ordered Out By New Year
By Howard Schwach

I t’s the battle of the local health care facilities. For ten years, the Joseph P. Addabbo Family Health Center on Beach 62 Street has been running a children’s day treatment program in space rented from Peninsula Hospital Center at its Beach 51 Street facility.

Now, however, the new management of the hospital center wants the program out, and has demanded that the school, which services 16 emotionally handicapped students with seven staff members, be out of the hospital by the end of the year.

“In October, I had a conversation with Todd Miller, the new CEO of the hospital,” says Dr. Peter Nelson, the CEO of the Addabbo Center. “He told me that we would have to vacate the space at the hospital by January 1. He was very cryptic, refusing to tell me why he needed the space. There was no discussion about using other space at the hospital or about whether paying more for the space would satisfy his fiscal need for the space. I told him that three months was inadequate, that I would do my best to move the program, but that I would never put the kids out on the street, and he would have to be patient until I found a new space.”

Miller, however, was not receptive, Nelson told The Wave on Monday. He recently reiterated his demand that the school program be out by the end of the year, but promised that he would “help facilitate the move.” Nelson is angry. “Miller is a rookie, who does not know what he is dealing with,” Nelson said. “He just knows what he wants and doesn’t know the unforeseen consequences of his demands. He obviously has no feelings about moving 16 fragile kids in the middle of the school year. These kids get excitable when you move them from one classroom to another, nevertheless to a new facility in January.”

Nelson argues that it is impossible to find a new site and get all the necessary permits to move the school by the deadline.

“In order to move the program I would have to find a spot, renovate it, write a Certificate of Need to the NYS Department of Health, write a Scope of Change to a number of city agencies, including the Department of Education and the Department of Mental Health, have the space inspected and approved and get an operating certificate from both the city and the state. That will take minimally six to eight months, and probably longer. Then, we have to relocate kids, who need a very structured environment, in a very short period of time. Structure and stability are as much a part of their therapy as their psychological counseling. It can’t be done.”

Liz Sulik, the hospital’s Director of External Affairs, however, issued the following statement to The Wave on Monday.

“The Addabbo Family Health Center and Peninsula Hospital Center have enjoyed a very long-standing and collaborative relationship for many years. We certainly want this relationship to remain very solid as we all move forward.

“However, the Hospital Center is in the process of restructuring and expeditiously moving forward. We are currently making plans to expand our Emergency Department services and very simply, we are in need of the space in the building that Addabbo currently occupies to proceed. When requesting the return of the space from Dr. Peter Nelson, Executive Director at Addabbo, we carefully considered our valued relationship and the time that the organization may need to relocate its program and acted with the utmost of concern.

“We wish the Addabbo Family Health Center every continued success in their programs and endeavors.”

A hospital source told The Wave that Addabbo has been paying $11 a square foot each year, significantly below the market rate for commercial space in Rockaway.

Nelson admits that is true.

“The deal was cut with [then CEO Bob] Levine because he wanted to support my program and I supported his,” Nelson says.

Levine resigned recently when Revival Home Health Care took over the hospital, which was on the brink of closing its doors, and declared bankruptcy.

“It’s not a matter of money,” the hospital source said. “It’s a matter of the hospital expanding its own programs in its own building.”

Meanwhile, Nelson remains resolute.

“There is no way we can meet the deadline, he says. “We have plans to set up trailers next door to our facility, but that land is still owned by the city and we have to get its permission to resettle there.”

“I wonder,” he adds, “what is so important that it takes precedence over relocating 16 at-risk kids in the middle of the year?”

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