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Queens Chronicle

Club Pride seniors lose transportation

Douglaston mental health facility sees decrease with cut service

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Posted: Thursday, February 13, 2014 2:00 am | Updated: 11:22 am, Thu Feb 20, 2014.

Winter can be a particularly difficult time for seniors, and for those with mental health issues, the isolation can be particularly devastating.

So for members of Club Pride in Douglaston, the loss of a bus in December transporting them to their program at Pride of Judea has been very upsetting. The club is a psycho-social gathering place open five days a week that offers seniors a chance to socialize and get counseling.

Dick Reif, 74, a retired McGraw-Hill staff writer from Kew Gardens Hills, attends Club Pride twice a week. He’s been a regular since 2003.

But in December the Samuel Field Y in Little Neck, which provided bus service for the Flushing area for 13 participants, had to cancel due to budget cuts.

“The club is supposed to be open 9:30 a.m. to 3 p.m. but now it’s only open two and one-half hours a day,” Reif said. “We used to have 20 to 25 people a day, now it’s about 10 to 15.”

The club hosts a total of about 60 people with some in the past going as much as five times a week. Now it has been reduced to four, Reif said.

All members are referred to Club Pride by psychiatrists and social workers at psychiatric and chronic care hospitals, according to Reif. He believes this may be their only daily social activity.

He noted that many members are physically disabled and can’t use public transportation. Nor can they afford Access-A-Ride’s $5 daily roundtrip fare, if they can qualify for this service.

“Without the club, many will stop recovering and will likely be re-institutionalized at taxpayers’ expense,” Reif said.

Calls to Pride of Judea’s director, Art Weiner, for comment were not returned.

Reif said attendance has declined partly because of the cold weather, but also because of the lack of bus service. Now the one remaining van, which only holds 10 people, makes two pickups a day.

“I’m in pretty good shape,” he said, “but there are many more fragile people both mentally and physically.”

Members appealed for help from state Sen. Tony Avella (D-Bayside) and even supplied a signed petition as requested. “All his office has said is that they are working on it,” Reif said.

Contacted Monday, Avella called the situation “unfortunate.” He said he had tried to put together an alternative plan with the Y but it did not work out.

“It’s a legitimate program and the seniors need to get out,” Avella said. “We have no discretionary funding anymore. It’s unfortunate; blame the governor.”

He has not heard back from officials at Pride of Judea or the Jewish Board of Family and Children’s Services in Manhattan, which is one of the major funders. The Chronicle also reached out to the agency without success.

“Where is the organization in all this?” Avella asked.

Newly installed City Councilman Paul Vallone (D-Bayside) said he is meeting with the Y next week regarding funding. “The van service is critical because so few groups are providing it,” Vallone said.

Welcome to the discussion.