Get to Know an Affiliate is a blog series focused on building affiliate-to-affiliate connections and resource sharing. In the first post of this series, Sarah Zucker recently interviewed Help Me Grow Long Island (HMG-LI). Below you’ll hear from Melissa Passarelli, HMG-LI Coordinator and Dr. Liz Isakson, Executive Director of Docs for Tots. 

Affiliate: Help Me Grow – Long Island, NY
HMG Organizing Entity: Docs for Tots
System Lead(s)/Interviewees:
Melissa Passarelli, HMG-LI Coordinator;
Dr. Liz Isakson, Executive Director, Docs for Tots
Affiliate Since: 2018

SZ: Tell me about how your community/state came to be interested in Help Me Grow and why it ultimately decided to join the National Affiliate Network.

HMG-LI: We first came across Help Me Grow on the CDC’s Learn the Signs, Act Early website. Docs for Tots had been working on a project to improve developmental screening and referral rates at safety-net health centers, and was finding that even when developmental concerns were identified and referrals made, these high need families were simply not making it to services that could help. HMG seemed to address this concern, and New York State was listed as having a site in Buffalo, so Melissa reached out and had a wonderful conversation with the HMG-Western New York team. Melissa then proceeded to bug Liz about it until she agreed that HMG was something Long Island needed. It took a few years of laying the groundwork with our community partners, but since launching we’ve certainly hit the ground running!

SZ: You’re just over a year in after launching the HMG Long Island call center. What has this last year been like? 

Melissa Passarelli, HMG-LI Coordinator.

HMG-LI: A roller coaster! It was so amazing to launch last January with a visit from Dr. Dworkin and see all the partners come together to make it happen. The problem that LI was trying to address with HMG was the successful linkage to existing resources, so the care coordination that the call center would provide was the key. We weren’t sure what to expect as far as call volume, so we started with one full time care coordinator. Things really started to take off and we realized we really needed a client management system and database – stat! So we started using the STAR system out of HMG-Orange County, and it was a huge relief to no longer be swamped in data. However, the database showed us how behind we were in follow-up, so we had to move up our timeline for hiring a second care coordinator. We found an amazing new person and are lucky to have two amazing bilingual care coordinators to meet the needs of our community. In summary, lots of issues that kept popping up, but the solutions popped up too – just some anxiety in the time between!

SZ: What’s next for HMG Long Island? Both in terms of your priorities for implementing the HMG model and what challenges you anticipate coming your way in the foreseeable future?

HMG-LI: Now that we’ve worked out a lot of the initial kinks, we’re hoping to stay the course and steadily grow our capacity to take on more cases. This includes improving the processes, procedures and staffing of our Centralized Access Point. Should we be changing up our work hours? Adding an additional staff person? Changing how staff time is spent? These are all questions we’re working as a team to address in the name of continuous quality improvement. We’re also hoping to integrate more of a two-generational approach into our work. We’re looking at how we can support maternal wellbeing, including offering maternal depression information and resources to pregnant and postpartum moms during intake. We’re lucky to have local partners at the table to advise us, and the ongoing feedback of our care coordinators to let us know how we can best serve families

SZ: So, I’m assuming you’re coming to the Forum in Buffalo, NY in May. What are you hoping to get out of it this year? Anything specific you’re hoping to learn or hear about? Any other affiliates you’re planning to connect with?

Liz Isakson, Executive Director of Docs for Tots.

HMG-LI: We are so excited for Buffalo! Being able to support Help Me Grow – Western New York is a real treat because they were instrumental in getting us off the ground, providing assistance since our first phone call with them and even allowing us to come visit Buffalo several times as we were getting up and running to learn how they run their system.

At the Forum we are hoping to hear more about technology – how are others integrating text messaging, chat, apps, and other means of communication into their HMG systems. For example, how are other affiliates leveraging technology to make screening more accessible to families that don’t have access to a computer but do have smart phones? We have our go-to affiliates that we like to pepper with questions – particularly South Carolina and Orange County, CA because they too have a high percentage of physician referrals.

SZ: If you were to say what HMG Long Island could offer in terms of expertise to the HMG Network, what would it be?

HMG-LI: Getting fully up and running in a relatively short period of time. It took a lot of work, but now we have a lot of lessons learned that we don’t have a lot of opportunity to share! Also, since Docs for Tots’ work is centered around physician outreach, we’re always happy to share insights on establishing meaningful connections with the medical community.

SZ: Last question. As a HMG affiliate, what do you want to see most from the National Center and for the affiliate Network in the coming year or two?

HMG-LI: Highlighting best practices from different sites, connecting sites to others that they can learn from, and continuing to host the best conference we’ve ever been to!