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From the Desk of Congressman Gary Ackerman

Ackerman Obtains Federal Funds in

House Bill for Local Hospitals

U.S. Rep. Gary Ackerman announced that legislation containing the funds he requested for two local hospitals has been approved by a key house panel.

The funds include $540,000 for the North Shore-LIJ Health System to treat veterans in Nassau County, Queens and Brooklyn who are arrested due to substance abuse and/or mental health problems and $100,000 for New York Hospital Queens (NYHQ) to expand its peri-operative tracking system.

The money was approved by the Appropriations Subcommittee on Labor, Health and Human Services, Education and Related Agencies as part of the panel’s annual spending bill. The measure is expected to be passed by the full house in the fall. The funds are as follows:

North Shore-LIJ Health System $540,000 to Treat Veterans in Nassau, Queens and Brooklyn with Mental Health and/or Substance Abuse Problems

The funds would be used by the Law and Psychiatry Institute of the North Shore-LIJ Health System to assist veterans in Nassau County, Queens and Brooklyn who are arrested due to substance and/or mental health problems related to combat exposure.

Designed by and for veterans, this program would identify and divert arrested veterans for intensive support, and would include a connection to a network of specially trained providers and services. These include social workers and veteran peers in the District Attorney’s offices within each county, the locations where the program is slated to take place.

The program is to be staffed by licensed social workers and veteran peers. These paired “teams” and community-based providers, including providers from the Veterans Administration, will be trained in evidence-based approaches to trauma, traumatic brain injury, substance abuse, and the needs and culture of the combat veteran and their families.

The money Ackerman secured will pay for the program’s staff of social workers and veteran peers.

Although the program would take place at the district attorney’s offices, the project’s coordinator would be based at a North Shore-LIJ location in Manhasset.

“At a time when more than 300,000 combat veterans of Iraq and Afghanistan are suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder and depression, there is an urgent need to steer them toward treatment rather than jail time,” said Michael Dowling, president and CEO of the North Shore-LIJ Health System. “We are proud of North Shore-LIJ’s Law and Psychiatry Institute’s partnership with our regional District Attorneys’ offices on the important Veteran’s Mental Health Court initiative. The funding secured by Congressman Ackerman will help us strengthen this critical program. We greatly appreciate his support.”   

“This program is a critical initiative to steer nonviolent veteran offenders away from jail and instead offer them the support services and mental health treatment they need,” said Ackerman. “We can never thank our veterans enough for the sacrifices they’ve made to our nation, and now we must do all we can to help troubled veterans obtain the services they require.”

Those involved with the program hope it can eventually be replicated around the country.

New York Hospital Queens (NYHQ) $100,000 to expand its Peri-operative Tracking System

NYHQ intends to use the funds to further enhance existing communication between patients’ families and doctors/hospital staff through the use of technology. The hospital plans to expand its peri-operative tracking system, an initiative in which the families of surgery patients can track the status of their loved ones through updates on monitors located in the hospital.

Under the program, each patient slated for surgery is assigned a unique ID number that is provided to their family members. Family members can then use these ID numbers to view information (e.g. location of the patient) regarding their loved one. Nurses provide updates on patient status in the pre-operative, intra-operative and post anesthesia care units. Patient consent is required before tracking is enabled.

The funds obtained by Ackerman would be used to purchase additional monitors – and related equipment – that would be installed in the cafeteria and other areas throughout the hospital. Presently, monitors are only located in the hospital’s main lobby and a surgical waiting area.

These new monitors would allow family members to be mobile while at the hospital, ensuring that they do not miss out on critical information should they go for a cup of coffee or step outside the surgical area.

“Staying informed about the status of loved ones undergoing surgical procedures is crucial” said Ackerman “and these funds would help ensure that family members remain updated during these critical and often difficult times.”

“In these unforgiving economic times, the Queens health care community is fortunate to have an advocate like U.S. Representative Ackerman, who understands and responds to our community’s needs and challenges,” said Stephen S. Mills, president and chief executive officer of NYHQ.

The Labor, Health and Human Services, Education and Related Agencies Appropriations bill provides funding in these areas for a wide-range of programs throughout the nation. Once passed by the House, the bill would require the approval of the Senate. It must then be signed into law by the president. If enacted, the funding would be available for fiscal year 2011 which begins on October 1.