/ April 13, 2021

Mental Health Service Corps: A lifeline to sick patients

Being a hero sometimes means overcoming one’s fear in order to do what’s right. For Jodi Romano, the Director of Mental Health Services at Elmhurst Hospital, overcoming her fear during the coronavirus pandemic meant that countless sick patients were able to connect with their loved ones during one of the most challenging moments of their lives.

At the peak of the pandemic in March and April, Elmhurst Hospital saw a surge of COVID-19 patients. For healthcare workers like Ms. Romano in hard-hit hospitals across the City, the possibility of becoming sick with a dangerous and little-understood illness was a risk unlike any before. The risks were so great that hospital patients with COVID-19 were prohibited from seeing their loved ones in person. That left them without any outside support through a terrifying ordeal.

When Ms. Romano thought about how scared and alone those patients must have felt, she knew she had to put her own fears aside. Donning her PPE, she went into the hot zones of the hospitals, where there were the most COVID-19 patients, and brought along iPads to show patients how to connect remotely with their families and friends. She offered a lifeline to patients when they needed it most.

“Jodi helped patients overcome barriers, and that’s what social work is about,” said Charles Barron, Deputy Chief Medical Officer at H+H’s Office of Behavioral Health. “Seeing their families was very important to patients, and for Jodi, the patient comes first. She’s someone who really believes and cares.”

Now, because of Jodi’s efforts, the hospital has instituted an ongoing practice of helping patients get in touch with their loved ones.

“Jodi has always led by example,” Dr. Barron said. “This crisis showed her leadership and her willingness to take risks.”

From Ms. Romano:
“It is so important to me to treat our patients and their families the way I would want my family to be treated. I have the best job in the world.  I get to help people live stronger and healthier lives.  It is an honor to be part of their healthcare journey.”

RELATED PROGRAM: Mental Health Service Corps

• Early-career clinical social workers serve thousands of high-need New Yorkers who might otherwise go without care
• Corps Members placed at over 48 clinical sites in the NYC Health + Hospital System – the largest public health system in the country
•Intensive training program, with service counting toward thousands of hours of supervised clinical care required for social work licensing

• Over 165,000 people have received support or services
• Since the launch of the Mental Health Service Corps at NYC Health + Hospitals in January 2020, Corps Members have provided clinical services to over 2,700 New Yorkers
• 76% of Mental Health Service Corps sites are located in federally designated mental health professional shortage areas