2011-11-18 / Columnists

East End Matters...

PHC Wrong To Toss Out Children’s Special Needs Program
Commentary By Miriam Rosenberg

When Peninsula Hospital Center was threatened with closure earlier this year, the community fought hard with rallies and petitions to save it. At the eleventh hour Revival Home Health Care came in and kept the doors open.

Now, however, the hospital wants to evict a children’s treatment program for special needs children, run by the Joseph P. Addabbo Family Health Center by the end of the year. Dr. Peter Nelson, the CEO of Addabbo told The Wave two weeks ago that such a timetable was impossible. He said it would take “minimally six to eight months, and probably longer” to find new space, renovate it and get city and state approvals. Then there is the matter of relocating children who he said “need a very structured environment” in such a short time frame. “Structure and stability are as much a part of their therapy as their psychological counseling. It can’t be done.”

For its part, PHC and its CEO Todd Miller don’t seem very concerned about the problems facing the children or Addabbo. A statement issued through the hospital’s representative said, “…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.”

Well, Dr. Nelson doesn’t think so, nor do two mothers whose children will be affected by the sudden move.

In a recent Queens Courier article, Juana Ruiz credits the program with the improvement her 13-year-old son, who suffers from Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder, has made. Now she fears the worse.

“I really don’t feel good about this,” said Ruiz. “He doesn’t cope well with changes. He doesn’t adjust to movement because of his condition. I’m worried that he’s not going to do as well once they move him.”

In the same article Denise Hendricks, whose 13-year-old mentally handicapped child also attends the program said, “I think it’s really disappointing and sad because that’s a good program. It really is. The community needs that program. They do. For me and my child, it’s good where it’s at right now.”

Miller told Community Board 14 members in September, “We expect to reinvigorate Peninsula with programs and services to make your access [to health care] better.”

I would have to ask Mr. Miller if this is his way of achieving that goal, by tossing 16 special needs children out of their space so he can “expeditiously mov[e] forward?”

A PHC source told The Wave it is not about money. But expanding the ER will bring in more patients and thus bring in more money. If the children stay a bit longer, until a new place can be found, the hospital continues to receive only $11 a square foot rent, significantly below the market rate, from Addabbo.

This action is causing undue hardship on the parents and children involved. Hendricks told The Queens Courier, “They’re not doing damage to the owners or the people who run the program – they’re doing damage to our children.”

Special needs children need extra love, compassion and understanding. There is none of that being shown by PHC and Revival. When Nelson spoke with The Wave he asked, “I wonder what is so important that it takes precedence over relocating 16 at-risk kids in the middle of the year?”

What is so important? Revival, PHC and Mr. Miller, a change of mind is “expeditiously” needed. The ball is now in your court.

* * * * *

I’d like to take a little space to thank the members of the firehouse on Beach 116 Street. On November 1 they hosted my niece’s kindergarten class from P.S. 256 Queens@P.S.831. The firefighters were fantastic with the children and put smiles on all those little faces, including my niece.

I was delighted, along with my niece’s mom, to be one of the adults tagging along on the trip. If anyone knows anything about me it is that my camera is never far away. Well, the pictures are priceless. My niece, Gabriella, loves to look at them almost everyday and so do we.

From all of us, thanks again guys.

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