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Hebrew Senior Care ‘rises to the challenge’ – with a little help from its friends

Six families donate close to $600,000 to kick off $1.5 million campaign

By Judie Jacobson

Hebrew Senior Care President and CEO Denise Peterson looked out across those gathered in West Hartford on Tuesday evening, Dec. 3, for the agency’s annual meeting and summed up the vision of Hebrew Senior Care leadership for the future.

”Good leaders create a vision, articulate the vision passionately, own the vision and relentlessly drive it to completion,” said Peterson, whose tenure as president/CEO began in April 2018. “Our goal and vision is to be the regional leader in the care and wellness of older adults.”

To achieve that “monumental goal,” as Peterson describes it, the 118-year-old Federated Jewish agency is currently undergoing a significant – and impressive – transformation and revival.

First, Peterson and her team created a comprehensive and strategic plan that included opportunities for expense reduction and revenue growth. In addition to a significant reduction in operating expenses, more than $800,000 was raised, via a $200,000 Jewish Community Foundation grant and approximately $600,000 in private donations from six philanthropic Hartford area families. 

As a result, noted Peterson, Hebrew Senior Care  “ended fiscal year 2019 with a modest – however profitable – operational income for the first time in many years.”

“After much hard work and perseverance by both trustees and staff, I can honestly say that our future is bright. We could not have overcome the many challenges without the support of the Greater Hartford Jewish community,” Debbie Kleinman, the agency’s chairman of the board told the Ledger.

Hebrew Senior Care’s bright future is highlighted by the expansion of Hebrew Senior Care’s behavioral health unit to include 16 new beds.

The decision to expand, explained Peterson at the annual meeting, resulted from a comprehensive market analysis conducted by the agency that revealed a dearth of geriatric/psychiatric physicians and beds to meet the burgeoning behavioral health needs of the community’s seniors.  

In short, according to the analysis, the estimated 1,000 Hartford area seniors who are expected to require behavioral health services over the next two decades will overwhelm a system in which only 50 beds statewide are earmarked exclusively for such services. In fact, Hebrew Senior Care’s current 22-bed behavioral health unit is consistently filled to capacity with patients from as far away as Bridgeport, Stamford and New London.

“We knew that expanding our behavioral health unit was vital to our future success and was aligned with the aging demographic and health care crisis for seniors,” Peterson said.

And so, last May, Hebrew Senior Care was granted a license enabling the agency to expand its behavioral health from 22 beds to a total of 38 beds – and add an Intensive Outpatient Program so patients have the necessary support system as they transition back into the community. 

According to Peterson, Hebrew Senior Care’s new behavioral health unit is scheduled to open in the spring of 2020. 

The $1.5 million renovation and expansion project is nearly $650,000 towards its goal, thanks to the generous gifts of six philanthropic Hartford area families – the same six families who rose to the previous Hebrew Senior Care challenge – as well as a $50,000 grant from the Maximillian E. and Marion O. Hoffman Foundation. Hebrew Senior Care leadership is working hard to raise a remaining $850,000 in donations. 

“We strongly believe that Hebrew Senior Care is uniquely positioned to meet this behavioral health crisis and we will rise to the challenge!” Peterson told supporters in attendance at the Peterson also noted that it is not just access to senior services that has become challenging. Affordability of those services is also becoming increasingly difficult for many seniors.  

“Our future vision is that all seniors – especially our Jewish seniors – have access to the support systems and can afford those services necessary to keep them healthy, safe and living actively in their community,” she said. “Hebrew Senior Care is meeting this challenge by raising endowment funds specifically to provide financial assistance to Jewish seniors who are unable to afford these needed services.”

For information on Hebrew Senior Care’s capital campaign, contact Madelene Francese at mfrancese@hebrewseniorcare.org.

Main Photo: Hebrew Health Care Board chair Debbie Kleinman (2nd from right) at the agency’s recent annual meeting, with new Board members (l to r) Ilene Kohlun, Sasa Harriott, and Florence Johnson: Not pictured: new board Barbara Fernandez and Jesse Bailey.

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