Spotlight on Com-Hab
This month we meet Community Habilitation Director, Shimon Susskind, LMHC. We found him in his office in between his collaborative meetings and quite a few pop-in visitors. He’s just that popular.
Hi Shimon! We’re impressed by the vast scope of your services. What is Community Habilitation and Respite?
Community Habilitation is designed in a way so that individuals can live at home and still improve their life skills. It’s a program that is custom-tailored to each person’s unique abilities and interests. The goal is to make their life the best version of what it can be.
Respite is designed as a support for the family. Its goal is to bring relief for the family, so it isn’t goal-focused; rather, it is meant as a time to give the individual full attention and the family some downtime.
What makes your services at HASC different than any other Community Habilitation & Respite program?
Our focus is on collaborative care and a family systems approach. Our supervisors follow a structural family therapy model which means they view the family as an emotional unit. Because they evaluate each individual as part of a whole unit, we can “join” the emotional unit of the family. Through this approach, the individual is not joining HASC, but rather, HASC is joining the individual and we become part of his extended family. We are blessed to have a staff that is very devoted to each individual and their family and in turn, some very close individual and family relationships. We always ask ourselves, “What can we do to help make this person’s life amazing?” And then we ask, “How can we get there?” That’s how we start to plan the individual’s strategy.
What made you focus on family systems? And how do you get whole families involved?
Before joining HASC, I worked in the mental health field. I worked with children, teenagers, geriatrics, and everyone in between, but my specialty was working with children and families. I received advanced training in Structural Family Therapy and integrated this model into our Community Habilitation Department. Through my experiences, I’ve learned that a collaborative approach is what brings the most lasting results. At HASC, we look at a person as an individual, not as a client, and that’s how we develop long-lasting relationships with all our families. We speak to each person in the deepest way possible, with a focus on actualizing each individual’s fullest potential!
What is your process for when a new individual joins the program?
Each new individual is assigned to a supervisor who arranges to meet at the individual’s home to get a feeling for the family system. We get a feel for the individual’s environment: the physical space, the people around them, the support, recurrent patterns of interactions, etc. We have several meetings between the family and supervisor and internally at our office to create an implementation plan for the individual’s goals. We then bring in a trainer to work one-on-one to implement the goals. There is a lot of supervision, instruction, and feedback to keep everyone up to date. We have check-ins each month to talk about what’s working, what isn’t working, and then we modify our plans to ensure they are meeting the goals.
What are the goals you work with through the Com-Hab program?
The main goals are spread throughout the program and depend on who it is for - children, adults, married adults, but I think I can safely say that everyone wants to succeed at living. A lot of our focus is on independent living skills, social and communication skills, self-esteem training, food preparation, and organization, safety out on the street, improved fine and gross motor skills, among many others. We use a lot of behavioral techniques that are slow-paced but manifest over time. We aim for our individuals to gain autonomy with the goals they are working on and we have a trainer who spends time one-on-one with each individual.
What kind of techniques do you use to help your individuals master such a vast amount of goals?
We use so many and we’re always learning and researching new ideas. We help our individuals reach their goals using prompting, reinforcement, role-playing, modeling, hand-over-hand, and many other tailored methods.
Can you tell us about an individual’s achievement that made you proud? What went into reaching that moment?
I’ll change the details for privacy, but sure! I’m really proud of David. He is an individual struggling with a comorbidity personality disorder and a diagnosis of autism. He’s never had consistency in his life and he felt very down about his situation. As part of the Community Habilitation program, he started to come in every week to explore his thoughts, fears, and feelings. He talks about all the things that prevent him from attempting to feel comfortable in his life. He was never able to keep a job for more than a month. Well, for the first time in his life, he consistently kept his meetings here and he worked through his feelings and worked on strategies to build his self-esteem. David just celebrated his very first one year work anniversary. He feels like a new person because he sees a bright future, and that he can amount to something. His confidence is boosted, his moods are more stable and we’re now creating new goals to keep the momentum going. I’m proud of him and our team for helping him become the best version of himself.
What does your typical day look like?
Well…. (chuckles) there is no typical. I have six supervisors under me, and each one is responsible for 50 families with individuals under our care, and the same amount of trainers who implement our strategy plans. My day is usually full of one-on-one meetings with our individuals and families. We build custom treatment plans for everyone, so sometimes we meet to build a plan; other times it’s to check-in, revisit, and tweak. I also put aside time to meet with our case managers and other departments for collaborative teamwork. Additionally, I meet with my supervisors to plan and update plans when necessary, and to discuss interventions with our trained workers. Basically, a lot of one-on-one and collaborative meetings.
What do you do in your spare time?
I’m the assistant Rabbi of the Young Israel of Sheepshead Bay and I’m also their Youth Director. I am also involved in community outreach and facilitate lectures for a group of teens and children. My goal is to revive the Orthodox Sheepshead Bay community and bring back the vibrancy that once thrived there. That keeps me pretty busy outside of HASC.
Where do you see your next growth opportunity?
HASC is amazing. I want to stay right where I am and help expand our Community Habilitation programs so that we can help more individuals and their families. We don’t just provide a service, but a family experience. There are so many families who need this support.
Although we’re very strong in Brooklyn, I’d like to reach into other communities like the Five Towns and make a difference there too.
Thank you Shimon! Sounds like you’re building an incredible structure here with a focus on every individual’s strengths and potential. Stay tuned for the next glimpse into the Greatness of HASC Center!