26 Oct

CareFirst and Family Services of Chemung County Partner to Provide Mental Health Services

After nearly two years of program development and contract negotiation, a new model for enhanced collaborative mental health services has opened in the Southern Tier. Providing mental health services specializing in helping individuals struggling with grief, traumatic loss, advanced illness management,acceptance of a terminal diagnosis, and caregiver fatigue, The Clinic at CareFirst is a partnership between Family Services of Chemung County and CareFirst.

Mirroring a traditional counseling model, clients are referred by a health or mental health professional, or they can refer themselves to The Clinic at CareFirst.  Reimbursable by most insurance carriers, self pay clients can receive treatment on a sliding fee scale. Currently, we anticipate serving approximately 25 clients each week; future plans for growth in 2019 are also expected.

In honor of National Mental Health Awareness Week (Oct 7-13), The Clinic at CareFirst hosted its grand opening and ribbon cutting ceremony with the Corning Area of Chamber of Commerce on Wednesday, October 10th. In an effort to de-stigmatize attitudes about mental health, this event featured a mini-documentary of testimonials from individuals who have found The Clinic at CareFirst to be a welcoming environment, bringing hope and healing to their individual journeys. Watch the full documentary below or on our YouTube Channel.

“When we experience illness or loss in our lives, the entire world shifts around us. We all need support in adjusting to those periods of life transition and now The Clinic at CareFirst can be there to provide that support,” said Chelsea Ambrose, Director of Counseling and Collaborative Services.

Chemung, Schuyler, and Steuben counties have the highest mental health needs in the Finger Lakes area. However, one in four Chemung County residents report experiencing 14 or more poor mental health days in a given month, which is double the rate of Upstate NY as a whole.  In an effort to meet this critical need for services, Family Services of Chemung County and CareFirst joined forces to form The Clinic at CareFirst.

Satellite clinics are nothing new for Family Services of Chemung County, who currently manage 19 total clinics throughout the area, including the newest one at CareFirst. Given the rich history and experience of Family Services of Chemung County, this partnership was a natural fit for CareFirst.

Mission driven advocacy has always been a cornerstone of the CareFirst message. Having been a leader in NYS in hospice and palliative care advocacy for nearly forty years, the not for profit agency has always valued being on the forefront of social change and taking the necessary risks to be successful. The Clinic at CareFirst is no exception: CareFirst is the first hospice in 

New York State that has developed a financially sustainable counseling program. While the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) mandate that hospices offer bereavement counseling, these programs are often fully funded on donations, as reimbursement for these services are not applicable for hospice grief counseling.

However, the partnership between Family Services of Chemung County and CareFirst has been contractually orchestrated in such a way that this a la carte niche service line allows CareFirst to be the first hospice pricing existed emotional and mental health services in the area of hospice, palliative care, and grief services.

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Board Certified Nurses at CareFirst
15 Jun

Our Newest Board Certified Nurses

CareFirst is proud to announce the recent hospice and palliative care board certification of five nurses, which brings the agency’s total of board certified clinical staff to seven.

The following nurses are being recognized for their professionalism, leadership, and commitment to excellence in hospice and palliative care patient care:

  • Patience Wulf, RN, DSN, CHPN, Director of Patient Care; CareFirst employee since 2009
  • Melissa Joint, RN, CHPN, Education Coordinator; CareFirst employee since 2006
  • Suzanne Scheib, RN, BSN, CHPN, Clinical Liaison; CareFirst employee since 2008
  • Brittany Buck, RN, CHPN; CareFirst employee since 2016
  • Anastatia Sturick, RN, CHPN; CareFirst employee since 2011
  • Carol Warriner, RN, CHPN; CareFirst employee since 2010
  • Rachel Parsels, LPN, CHPLN; CareFirst employee since 2010

As practitioners in hospice and palliative care, we take great pride in our expertise and commitment to quality at the end of life. Our team of professionals have years of clinical experience, evidence-based practice, and education to draw upon. Their commitment to certification improves patient outcomes, provides compensation incentives and gains industry wide recognition.

“To me, this board certification means love; it is an opportunity to advocate at a most intimate time of life. I am very humbled and grateful to share the gift of hospice, using the highest quality methods I learned during the certification process,” said Rachel Parsels, LPN, CHPLN.

“As a CareFirst nurse, I get to help people who have limited medical backgrounds and teach them how to care for their loved one.  To allow them to pursue that dream and make it happen is such a beautiful experience; I’m honored to be a part of that. So for me, hospice is making dreams happen,” said Brittany Buck, RN, CHPN.

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Mrs. McGee at Barnes & Noble
05 Jun

Verlene McGee Receives Surprise Award at Story Hour

Local hospice patient, Verlene McGee, 91, a retired reading specialist for Beecher School, and published author, dreamed of visiting her favorite bookstore, Barnes & Noble, one last time.

Mrs. McGee taught first grade in the Elmira school district for five years before becoming a reading specialist. After completing twenty-three years as an educator, she began writing a column for the Star Gazette as she conducted parenting workshops sponsored by her school district. Experience as a parent and grandparent was the motivating factor in her decision to write Parenting Pearls.

By interviewing parents and grandparents and doing extensive research, a collection of essays were written and pithy statements were compiled based upon what was learned about how parents and their kids interact. Mrs. McGee and her husband, the Reverend Cephus McGee, a retired prison chaplain, live in Elmira. Parenting Pearls is a three-year effort that was one of the most exciting works she has ever attempted.

Verlene McGee had a dream to visit the bookstore and host one last story hour for a group of children, friends, and family. CareFirst and Barnes & Noble partnered to make this happen. Unbeknownst to her, Verlene received a Lifetime Literary Award at this event, with all of the bells and whistles one would hope for in such a celebration.

As reaching patient goals is a integral part of the CareFirst mission, the clinical team got to work on making this dream come true. Mrs. McGee was joined by family, friends, former students, CareFirst staff, Barnes & Noble staff, and others for this very special moment in her life.

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05 Jun

Hospice Patient Receives Honorary Degree from Binghamton University

Laura Bess was admitted to Hospice on April 9, 2018. Originally, she was admitted in March, but revoked after being on our services for about a week, as she was going to try and seek more treatment for her cancer. During that initial admission, she told us how disappointed she was that she would not be able to graduate from Binghamton University with her Masters Degree to become a Nurse Practitioner.

After revoking her initial Hospice benefit with CareFirst, Laura went back to Roswell Cancer Center where she and her family discussed all of her options. She was readmitted to Hospice in April.

Paul Washburn and Melissa Joint admitted Laura, and Paul asked me if we could pursue getting the degree for Laura and wondered if we could do it as a surprise for her. We contacted the State University of New York at Binghamton’s Decker School of Nursing and was directed to the Director of the Graduate of Nursing Program, Dr. Nicole Rouhana. We had to have the patient’s name, so we sought permission from her husband as he wanted to pursue this for his wife, if it was possible. Dr. Rouhana worked very quickly and diligently – and within 48 hours was able to secure permission from the Dean of the University to give Laura Bess an Honorary Master of Science Family Nurse Practitioner Degree.

Social worker Jennifer Oyer made arrangements, with the assistance of Melissa Joint, RN and Patience Wulf, Director of Patient Care, to have Melissa Oakley, Family Services Manager, pick up the Degree from the University. Dr. Rouhana framed the Degree and stored it in a beautiful, decorative University of Binghamton gift bag, along with some cards, to give to Laura. With the help of friends, we scheduled a small ceremony to honor Laura’s hard work and to present her with the Honorary Degree from Binghamton University.

CareFirst staff members, Jenny Oyer, LMSW, Paul Washburn, RN, and Carol Warriner, RN, went to Laura’s home on April 13 at 9am to present her with the Honorary Master of Science Family Nurse Practitioner Degree from Binghamton University, along with a pink bouquet of flowers, to recognize her special accomplishment.

The Decker School of Nursing also offered Laura’s husband and family the opportunity to walk the stage at the Commencement Ceremony at Binghamton University in May.

Laura was dressed very nicely in her wheelchair, nails painted, as Carol Warriner, RNCM, presented her with the Degree. Laura’s husband was tearful and hugged and kissed his wife. Her parents were also present during this presentation.

It was a Wonderful Experience, and we’re so happy Laura Bess, NP, received her degree from Binghamton University!

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11 Mar

Strategies for Coping With Grief

After the first few days of shock, grieving individuals often look for a sense of meaning, or other ways to stay busy, as they work through their loss. Try some of these activities to help you cope:

1. Create a Memorial. Depending on the circumstances and the person you may want to create a roadside memorial, a home shrine or a bulletin board filled with letters, notes, poems and pictures. You may decide to create a sculpture, a collage or fill a scrapbook with memories.

2. Help to plan and organize the funeral, memorial service, or celebration of life to honor the person who has died. Planning a service, tending to the details is something active to do, during a time when people often feel helpless.

3. Plant a tree or flowers in a garden in memory of the person lost.

4. Donate – money, time, food, clothing or other needed items — to a favorite charity, homeless shelter, animal shelter, hospice, or home for abused women.

5. Donate blood at your local blood center. Donating is another way of doing something active and giving something back.

6. Write sympathy and condolence notes, letters of encouragement and support to those affected by the loss.

7. Thank the emergency and hospital personnel, highway patrol, police and firefighters for helping if the loss involved an accident or emergency.

8. Be kind to others. Make space for the car merging in on the highway. Don’t use your horn unless it is absolutely necessary. Let someone with fewer items go first in the grocery store.

9. Volunteer your services or skills. Offer assistance to someone in need.

10. Perform random acts of kindness. This will help to remind one there is tenderness and thoughtfulness in the world. Pay the bridge toll for the person behind you. Smile at the store clerk. Some choose to perform random acts of kindness in memory of the person lost.

11. Do something that can benefit others. Take a first aid or CPR class.

12. Remember to tell your loved ones, friends and family how much you care about them, and tell them often.

13. Create a journal to write your thoughts or feelings down.

14. Listen to music. Create your own playlist of songs in tribute to your love one.

15. Exercise! This can be a tool for instrumental grievers to process their grief and sweat out their sadness.

16. Seek out a friend or counselor to talk to. Sometimes it helps to be able to verbalize our grief with others and get it out.

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