Female Announcer: This is Special Needs Long Island, a radio broadcast dedicated to the special needs community right here on Long Island. Bringing you the latest news affecting special needs families along with information from organizations and professionals practicing in the field of special needs, now here are your hosts, Jeff Silvermann and Ellen Victor.

Ellen Victor: Good morning and welcome to this week’s Special Needs Long Island, the radio show focused on the special needs community where we discuss the latest news and goings on in the special needs community.

This is Ellen Victor, my co-host Jeff Silvermann was unable to join us today but will be back with us every other Sunday morning at WLIE 5:40 AM and streaming on the Internet at www.wlie540am.com.

Today, we are very pleased to feature an organization new to the show but certainly not new in the community, FREE, which stands for Family Residences and Essential Enterprises.

They’re new to us, but you’ve been around since 1977. I’d like to welcome David Barhome, who’s the Assistant Vice President of Behavioral Health Services at FREE. Welcome.

David Barhome: Thank you for having me.

Ellen: How long have you been at FREE?

David: I’ve been there for six years.

Ellen: Tell me little bit about what it is that you do there.

David: As the Assistant Vice President for Behavioral Health Services, I’m really tasked with the privilege of helping a lot of the individuals that have mental health needs get the services that they need. I primarily focus on program development. I oversee a clinic out in Suffolk County as well as two PROS programs, which I’d love to talk about a little bit more as we go into the show.

In this kind of environment, we’re going through a lot of change in terms of how these services are paid for and really been working hard on helping position our agency into the new world of managed care, which is a very new way of thinking for a lot of behavioral health and disability providers.

Ellen: We haven’t spoken about that too much on this show, but I’m hearing whispers of that, as well, that managed care is taking over how things are run through OPWDD, which we deal with a lot in the office of mental health. It’s coming, and we can’t avoid it. We don’t know quite when, but do you have some inkling of how that’s going to start affecting?

David: Mental health is lucky enough to be the first to go through the managed care conversion. New York City actually went through it, already.

We had slated to go into managed care in July of 2016. To really simplify it as much as possible, going with the parity laws that were passed several years ago, this is just another step to…

Ellen: Parity was where mental health gets the same insurance…

David: Same coverage.

Ellen: …coverage as any other disease which is wonderful.

David: Correct, but with that comes the processes and how it’s viewed in terms of the financial world so with managed care, there are some good things as well. The focus is no longer going to be fee-for-service which is what we’ve traditionally done. Meaning that you going for a service and you get paid for the service regardless of whether the person is benefiting from it or not.

In the managed care world it’s really about outcomes. Is the service that you’re providing actually helping an individual move forward in their recovery? Is it doing what it’s supposed to be doing? Based on that, you get paid. It’s different, which is a good thing, but a lot of agencies are not used to this type of environment and that’s what everybody’s scrambling towards.

Ellen: I hear that the hope is that either they’re going to look at our clients as individuals and run an overall program for them where they help them out in each area of their lives that they need help and manage things, again, just for the individuals to get all the care. We’ll know of course. We’ll see how it works but that’s, I believe…

David: In a nutshell, correct.

Ellen: Yes. We were talking a little bit about some young adult programs, that you developed programs. Tell me about the program that you’re trying to develop.

David: I operate a PROS program and I just want to give a little bit of a background on that and that could lead into where we went.

Ellen: Should you tell us what PROS is?

David: PROS stands for Personalized Recovery Oriented Services. It’s really a resource for individuals, anybody 18 and up with a mental health diagnosis, to get the support they need to achieve their goals in living, learning, working, and socializing.

Ellen: When I hear recovery I think drug and alcohol but this is really recovery from…

David: A holistic recovery. It could be mental health and addiction. It could be mental health and development to disabilities. Really, what recovery means in this term is moving forward on your life goal which everybody here — whether you have a mental illness or not — is looking towards doing.

This resource is designed to help facilitate or move people through many of life’s goals with support that they may not have outside of the program. We provide counseling, group therapy, clinic therapy as well.

We have psychiatrists and the clinical staff on board. Really, we’re here to provide the kind of guidance and develop coping skills so people can move on, and achieve the goals that many of us here are fortunate enough to have without that assistance.

Ellen: Surely, we all want to achieve independence and live just sort of the typical life.

David: Correct, and that’s what we’re really doing. You don’t have to be here five days a week. You can come one day. You go to school, and we could help you deal with the stresses of school, stresses of work. We can go on the job with you to support you there, act as a liaison if you need it, or help choose a job development — get you a job, if you’ve never been able to get one on your own.

What happened from there is we found that there is a larger group of young adults that really didn’t have a place to go. Even though they were 18 and 19 — did not feel comfortable with individuals that were attending the program, that were maybe 50, 60. They don’t have the same goals. They don’t have the same challenges that older population do.

We started working with school districts to develop a track that was just for individuals of that certain cohort — 18 to 22, to help them with their unique set of goals.

Ellen: They’re aging out of that school system at that point. It’s sort of a transition service?

David: Yes. It’s a same program model, but it’s geared towards a younger adult population, where the focus is really hiding the services in a way. A lot of them don’t feel comfortable yet.

Ellen: There’s a huge stigma associated with mental illness.

David: Parents don’t want their kids labeled as having bipolar, for example, or schizophrenia. We try to take that clinical piece, and not necessarily pound them with it, hide it into the services we provide, in order to help them develop the skills they need to so they can be comfortable with who they are, whether they have a disability, that’s more intense than others.

They know that they can still achieve things that other people can. That has proved very successful over the years, and we’ve developed strong relationships with a lot of the school systems — most probably the Boise system. Yesterday we were at the NCITT, which is National County Inter-agency Treatment Team.

Ellen: Where is that?

David: It was in Garden City, but it’s all the…

Ellen: All the Boise’s programs.

David: All the districts come in and they talk about how they can support individuals that are in this kind of predicament. What we wanted to do as an agency is take it to the next level. That’s to see, “Well, all right, we really got a down, where we can help people that are aging out of the schools.”

We’ve noticed that a lot of people that are under 18 — a lot of young adults and children under 18 that have been diagnosed, but nobody really knows what to do with them. How can FREE step in? How can we support them? We’re not claiming to have all that knowledge yet on how to do that, so we’re really reaching out to the school districts.

It was a very fruitful exchange yesterday. We really want to seek feedback and solicit anybody that’s listening really, to tell us what is it that’s been a challenge for their sons, their daughters.

Ellen: Somebody wants to reach out to you — where can they reach out?

David: They can obviously go to our website. It’s www.familiyres.org. There’s all the different programs, all the different services that we provide. You can reach out to me directly. I can give you my email as well, it’s [email protected].

We’d love to hear from you. We’re really interested and motivated and invested in providing some type of support to that young adult population that really has fallen through the cracks at times.

Ellen: Would you say that population needing, that the schools are not providing, and some of the organizations aren’t providing? Where do you see that going?

David: The traditional services seem to be there, even though that could be a little bit more present, such as clinic services, counselling — things of that nature. That seems to be there. What we got from our meeting yesterday was a lot of education still needs to be done. A lot of counselling for the parents, who aren’t comfortable with the diagnosis that their son or daughter might have been getting…

Ellen: We have to lower our expectations or change our expectations? Let’s say that we change our expectations for our children.

David: Correct. It’s understood, no parent wants their son or daughter to be labelled as such. Where the developmental disability — it’s a little bit easier, because these physical characteristics that are there, there’s a much more favorable attitude, because it’s a developmental thing.

Whereas people with mental illness, they look like you and I, they just don’t act the same way and that contributes to the stigma.

Ellen: Do you offer any social programs?

David: We are actually working on an adult program now called the SOAR program, Specialized Opportunities for Achieving Recovery, which is a clubhouse-type service designed to ease people into receiving services. It’s focused on engagement. Some people don’t want to jump into programs. The term program itself has a negative connotation sometimes, even though I think they’re very beneficial. This is all about engagement.

It’s all about saying, “Hey, why don’t you come in, hang out, get a free lunch, play some games with us. Watch some TV, let’s talk about some current events. Let’s just get engaged. Maybe you’ll meet somebody that you can relate to, and you can talk about. When you finally you’ll start to feel like, ‘Hey, I want to get a job.’ Or, ‘Hey, I really want to move out of my parents’ house,’ we could walk you down the hall to a PROS program. And say, ‘OK. Well, here we have counselors ready to help you develop a treatment plan, a goal plan. Let’s get going. Let’s get you to where you want to be.'”

Ellen: It’s a gateway to your other services. But again, the socialization part is very, very important.

David: Absolutely.

Ellen: We’ve been talking today to David Barhome of FREE. We’re going to take a quick break and we’re going to be right back.

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Male Announcer: Special Needs Long Island is a program brought to the community by attorney Ellen Victor and special care planner Jeff Silverman. It features individuals and organizations making a difference in the special needs world, and brings you the latest local and national news in the field of special needs. If you are the parent or guardian of a child or adult with special needs and need to plan for their future and well-being, Ellen and Jeff are available to speak with you as a listener of the show.

Whether you have questions about legal issues such as special needs trusts, guardianship, and wills, or have financial issues including SSI, Medicaid, or funding the future, Ellen and Jeff are here to help you. They offer a no-charge consultation to discuss your personal situation.

Please contact Jeff Silverman at 516-682-3363, or Ellen Victor at 516-223-4800 with any questions or to schedule an appointment, or by email at [email protected]. Thanks for tuning in every Sunday at 9:00 am on WLIE 540 AM and wlie540am.com. Now back to today’s show.

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Ellen: We’re back here talking today on Special Needs Long Island where we’ve been speaking to David Barhome of FREE, the Family Residences and Essential Enterprises. Welcome back.

David: Thank you.

Ellen: One of the things that I hear that is going on in January is this job expo. You want to talk some about that?

David: Yes. One of the greatest pieces to FREE, and why I think it’s such a great organization is its employment-first initiatives. My background is in employment. I’m a rehabilitation counselor by discipline. That’s one of the first things that I worked on when I came to the agency.

To see what they’ve been able to do with these job expos has been unbelievable. What the job expo is, in the most basic of understanding, it’s a place where people could come together with all abilities to seek out employment, to learn about employment, to get some experience or education on how to ace an interview, or disclose your disability.

What the job expo is, it’s a partnership between three agencies, FREE, ACLD, and Life’s WORC, and YI, four agencies, where they come together to provide a venue for that for individuals — all abilities. There will be representatives from OMH, OPWDD, and Department of Health, and ACCESS-VR that will be giving keynote speeches about…

Ellen: ACCESS-VR is…

David: Sorry.

Ellen: That’s all right.

David: I wish I could tell you the whole acronym…

Ellen: That’s OK, but mostly what they’re there for is, and they used to be, they had another name.

David: They used to be VESID. That I can tell you [laughs] what it was.

Ellen: They used to be VESID. I think a lot of people, it’s vocational training.

David: Correct. It’s vocational-educational. What ACCESS-VR does is it is a resource for individuals to get support in specific job training or education which will ultimately lead to a job that is funded through the state education department.

It’s anybody that has a disability of any kind. It doesn’t have to be developmental, it doesn’t have to be mental. It doesn’t have to be physical. It’s all types of disabilities. All they need is proof. They go to the local ACCESS-VR office. They would work with a vocational counselor there.

Ellen: They will be there, along with you and a few other agencies. Will there be employers there?

David: Yes, over 100 employers and hundreds of job seekers will be there.

Ellen: Maybe thousands.

David: We’re hoping so. The first year we held it at FREE in our event space. It quickly outgrew, it was bursting at the seams. Then we moved it over to Farmingdale State College.

Ellen: Could you tell us when it is?

David: It is Friday, January 29th, 2016. Registration’s at 8:00. There’s the forum from 9:00 to 10:30, which is where all the dignitaries and state representatives will be speaking. We will have a lot of workshops as well.

The workshops are very valuable and run by people with many years of experience that can talk about how to interview, how to disclose, like I was talking about before, how to achieve success on the job or to get the job in the first place. After that, is the expo which is from 11:30 to 2:00 and that’s where the employers and employees get to exchange information and see what’s out there.

Ellen: What a great service you’re providing. That’s so necessary. I think that working is, as much as so many of us complain about our jobs. Working is the way to get to be a normal person in a normal society and avoid the stigma. It’s important.

David: Absolutely. As a rehab counselor I do feel that sometimes, and I say this to all my staff as well, that employment is sometimes the best therapy. You can have a purpose, making money, giving back, having something to wake up for every day. I think it speaks volumes to people.

Ellen: I agree. It’s how you become independent and functioning. We all want to be contributing members of this society.

David: Absolutely.

Ellen: FREE, we do that. You do the job benefits part, and you help the young adults into some socialization. You also have a lot of residential programs?

David: Yeah. FREE is a large agency…

Ellen: You serve how many families?

David: 4,000 individuals. It’s quite a bit of people that we have impact on, which is wonderful. We are throughout Long Island into Queens now, as well.

Through our affiliates, we’re into New York City as well. We have a lot of different pieces to our agency. I do invite you guys to check out our website and you can see all of the wonderful resources that we have available.

Ellen: Now you can mention the website again.

David: Sure. It’s familyres.org.

Ellen: It’s a great website. I was on it this morning.

David: Great. We just redid it recently. More user-friendly, we do invite you there to take a look, but…

Ellen: How does someone get in touch with FREE when they decide they need services?

David: All the information you need is on the website as well. Usually, the entrance into FREE or getting acquainted would be through the Resource and Referral Department. That’s right on the front page of the website.

From there they can direct you. You had mentioned residential, and a large part of our agency is residential. OMH, which is the Office of Mental Health, and OPWDD, which is the Office of People with Developmental Disabilities, we have over 160 sites all across Long Island to provide residential services.

Ellen: So there’s group homes, and supportive housing, and the whole range, so the apartment housing.

David: Correct. All the way from supported, which is almost completely independent, where a counselor will come in once a month or as needed, even. We do have a multilevel structure there, and we have the resource to provide extra support if needed, which is a very valuable component.

Ellen: Mostly, do you start off at birth, or do you really get into this FREE, just start when they age out of the school system?

David: That’s a great question. With our leadership, we really have tried to focus on providing a continuum of care from birth until old age. We’ve really been successful at that FREE operates an inclusive charter school, out in the Hampton CDCH and that works with individuals from a pre-school age on up until about twelve years old.

Ellen: That’s interesting. So there’s a school being operated through FREE.

David: Correct.

Ellen: And how do you get into that school?

David: That’s also again through the website. I can’t necessarily speak to the exact specifics on it, but all the information you would need would be on our website to get you where you wanted. It’s in the Hamptons too, so it’s a nice drive. What we’re looking to do is to really provide services through the whole continuum of life. We do a lot of respite programs for people up until 18, even above.

Ellen: Is that respite for the families?

David: Correct. Respite for the families, so afternoon programs, weekend programs. We have some programs for people with autism as well, developmental disabilities. We have a full variety of programs, and we’re really looking to reinforce that menu of services to provide for the families and their loved ones for their whole life.

Ellen: That job expo sounds terrific, and again, we should promote that everywhere because it’s one of the difficulties that I hear a lot, is people trying to find jobs and finding. So do you work with employers at that point?

David: Oh, absolutely. Specifically, our employment services division and PROS, the PROS program that I had spoken about earlier is really employment focused, many of the individuals that come to our program, and this is the mental health program that I was talking about, are really looking to find work.

That’s their main life goal. We have two full-time vocational accounts, as part of the program. Out of our census out of about 130 right now, about 40 percent are working, which is a very high percentage.

Ellen: That’s huge, that’s great.

David: Considering the employment rate amongst people with disabilities is much lower. In our employment services division, we work through the whole network and has been very successful as well. We really have taken employment first seriously.

That’s why this job expo I feel is such a popular event. On our first year, we couldn’t even fit everybody in. That shows how much there is of a need to really get people to work, and to provide education to employers. Let’s say, “Hey, the people that we work with are just as reliable, dependable, and if not more, than the average employee.”

Ellen: So do you actually go into the job site of if there seem to be some difficulty and help work, as a supervisor through some difficulties?

David: In the behavioral health problem, the mental health world, the individuals that we support are considered their own guardians, their own person. So we would have to have consent from the individuals to say, “Yes. You can disclose, or I can disclose to my employer, and yes, you can act on my behalf or as a liaison,” which is about 50-50 someone to know, because sometimes they want to work.

They don’t want to be known to their co-workers, employers, or bosses that they have a disability. We’re fine with that. We’re not here to out anybody, we’re here to support people.

So we might not meet them on the job site, but we might meet them at Dunkin’ Donuts on their break and say, “Hey, would you like to tell me about what’s going on, if you’re having problems,” we can work it out there.

In other cases, they want us to be in there more than we think we should be in there. “Please talk to my boss about this, please talk to…Help me get through what I need to get.” We could do based on what the individual wants, really.

Ellen: It sounds like you have a number of great programs, of young adult programs and you’d like people to reach out to you, and tell them and what they feel that they need. It has been wonderful having you here, we have been speaking to David Barhome of FREE, the Family Residences and Essential Enterprises, and we wanted to thank him for coming to our show today.

This is another Special Needs Long Island radio show. Jeff Silverman and I will be back on next Sunday and every Sunday from 9:00 to 9:30, on 540 WLIE AM, streamed on the web at www.wile540am.com. This is Ellen Victor, signing off. Hoping everyone listening has a great week.

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Female Announcer: You have been listening to Special Needs Long Island, on 540 AM, WLIE. Join us next week, as we bring you more important information for the special needs community. For questions, please contact Jeff Silverman, Director of Special Needs Planning for the Center for Wealth Preservation, at 516-682-3363. Or Ellen Victor Esquire, a Special Needs Attorney, at 516-223-40800, with any questions. Special Needs Long Island, every Sunday at 9:00 AM, right here at 540 AM WLIE.

Male Announcer: Special Needs Long Island is a program brought to the community by attorney Ellen Victor and special care planner Jeff Silverman. It features individuals and organizations making a difference in the special needs world. It brings you the latest local and national news in the field of special needs. If you are the parent or guardian of a child or adult with special needs, and need to plan for their future and wellbeing, Ellen and Jeff are available to speak with you as a listener of this show.

Whether you have questions about legal issues such as special needs trusts, guardianship, and wills, or financial issues regarding SSI, Medicaid, or Funding the Future, Ellen and Jeff are here to help you.

They offer a no charge consultation to discuss your personal situation. Please contact Jeff Silverman at 516-682-3363 or Ellen Victor at 516-223-40800 with any questions, or to schedule an appointment, or by email at [email protected]. Thanks for tuning in every Sunday at 9:00 AM on WLIE 540 AM, or www.wlie540am.com.

Female Announcer: Join Jeff Silverman, director of special needs planning for the Center of Wealth Preservation, and Ellen Victor Esquire, a special needs attorney, every Sunday morning at 9:00 AM for Special Needs Long Island. Tune in for the latest news affecting the special needs community. Hear from organizations dedicated to those with special needs and their families. Special Needs Long Island, with Jeff Silverman and Ellen Victor. Every Sunday morning at 9:00 AM, right here at 540 AM WLIE.