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Harp Program

In Bold New Foray into Community Mental Health Services, Hamaspik “Ready to Open the Doors”

Under Driven Director Mordechai Solomon, LMHC, Agency Poised to Help Destigmatize Mental Illness


“If I could, I would dedicate my life to erasing the stigma.”


A bold statement, to be sure.  But that’s how Mordechai “Mutty” Solomon, LMHC sees it.


And that’s why he works at Hamaspik.


The licensed mental health counselor helms Hamaspik’s HARP program in Brooklyn—and exemplifies the agency’s drive and passion with his own.


As far as Hamaspik is concerned, Mr. Solomon’s personal cause celebré is a perfect match for one of its biggest and boldest efforts in years.


That program would be the Health and Recovery Plan (HARP)—a new initiative by New York State Medicaid that is designed to break the vicious cycle of chronic serious mental illness.


Improving Medicaid

Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s Medicaid Redesign Team (MRT) was tasked to improve state Medicaid.  Among its many innovations is HARP, which emerged in 2014 from the MRT’s ongoing work.


Now growingly available statewide through non-profits like Hamaspik, HARP is one of the newest entries in Medicaid’s existing Home and Community Based Services (HCBS) category.


Under its HCBS “parent program,” HARP helps replace costly cycles of chronic mental-health relapse with positive and permanent solutions personalized for each individual patient.


It does so by offering eligible adults specific HCBS services targeted just for them.


As such, HARP’s innovations include direct supports for patients’ social and emotional needs—critical not just for attaining long-term mental health, but retaining and maintaining it, too.


With the social and emotional foundations of mental health set, HARP patients can move on to such daily-living staples like social skills and employment.  Under HCBS, HARP supports those.


Most importantly, the HCBS “sub-program” can give participants a sorely-lacking morale boost on two fronts: support training for family members and even support from recovered peers.


The program’s pilot efforts launched in April 2015 in New York City.  By October of 2015, HARP was rolling out across the state.


Who’s HARP for?  How’s it work?

Health and Recovery Plans will “facilitate the integration of physical health, mental health, and substance use services for individuals requiring specialized approaches,” says its official website.


Qualified HARPs will also offer access to an enhanced benefit package designed to provide a specialized scope of support services, the site adds.


For starters, HARP is only for adults ages 21 and up.  It’s also not an open program for the general Medicaid public.  It is a managed care program.


The program is mandatory for New York Medicaid members whose records indicate that they are among the state’s most frequent beneficiaries of mental-health supports.


Letters were sent by the New York State Office of Mental Health (OMH) to each selected member, informing them of their required participation in HARP and explaining the following:  The individual must first choose from a list of health homes, or specialized healthcare providers.  The individual then signs up with the health home and is evaluated at an appointment. 


The individual is extensively evaluated at that initial appointment by the health home’s professionals.  The health home then creates a customized treatment plan.


That plan can provide up to 12 specific HCBS support services as offered through HARP.  (Those services are provided by the regional providers, not the HARP health homes.)


Once the HARP patient has a treatment plan, he or she chooses where to get his or her HARP services—by choosing a regional provider (or providers) that offers those HARP services.


Treating causes, not symptoms

The breakthrough innovation of HARP is that it channels HCBS services to treat underlying causes, not fruitlessly bandaging external symptoms.


For starters, HARP gives patients critical short-term supports needed to stay episode-free after a relapse.  Once they’re stable, long-term supports, for months or more, are also available.


For qualifying individuals, those supports can—upon individual approval—include regular home visits by social workers in those vulnerable post-crisis days to help avoid re-hospitalizations.


Said social workers will likewise guide the patient to take up regular mental-health therapy—also equally critical in dealing with the emotional and social issues behind mental-health issues.


The HARP program’s HCBS services can also provide the individual’s family with support training—making recovery a family project proactively involving parents and siblings, too.


That training turns family members into informed members of their loved ones’ teams—equipping them with authoritative knowledge of what their loved ones are going through.


A third critical HCBS service is a peer empowerment program.


Under that service, people who’ve recovered from mental illness help others recover from mental illness—giving others the gifts of hope and a happy life that were given to them.


Another HCBS-based HARP support is one-on-one habilitation.  This gives the recovering patient a personal coach to learn (or relearn) basic self-care skills and healthy personal habits. 


On the front lines

After approval by the New York State OMH to be a HARP regional services provider in both Rockland and Kings Counties, and extensive required groundwork, Hamaspik’s HARP program is finally live!


In the Hudson Valley, Hamaspik of Rockland County’s very own Mrs. Pearl Spira, LMSW heads up HARP efforts in Monsey and greater environs.


And in Brooklyn, home to the Hamaspik of Kings County, Mutty Solomon is helping people get the long-term mental-health supports they’ve long needed—and which HARP delivers.


That action is the culmination of months of painstaking paperwork and planning, staff training, reaching internal milestones and otherwise squaring away rigorous “back room” requirements.


But Hamaspik’s foray into HARP is just one piece of a larger puzzle: the agency’s long-term vision of delivering human-services solutions to the communities it has long served.


Towards that end, psychologist Solomon recently joined an event hosted by First Lady Chirlane McCray, wife of New York Mayor Bill de Blasio, on the city’s ThriveNYC initiative (see “Helping NYC Thrive,” page [here]), where Mr. Solomon built his professional network.


And now, with its new HARP program and a keen eye on providing ever-more mental-health services, Hamaspik furthers its position as a catchall communal social-services resource.


Says Mr. Solomon: “We’re ready to open the doors.”


If you or a loved one have received a HARP participation letter for Rockland County, please call Kathleen Clay of Hudson River Healthcare at 914-734-8513 or Noel Sander of Hudson Valley Care Coalition at 914-502-1435.


For any questions on Hamaspik support services for HARP beneficiaries, please contact Mrs. Pearl Spira, LMSW in Rockland County at 845-503-0247, or Mrs. Yehudis Heimfeld in Brooklyn at 718-408-5405.