Briding the gap to help the mentally ill

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Barbara Cohen was looking for solid work for some of the 1,400 mentally ill patients she is responsible for at PSCH, one of Queens’ largest mental health care providers.

Marvin Soskil, a marketing director for a California-based producer of non-invasive diagnostic tests, had someone in mind who could help.

“Our friend Dominick owns a cleaning service and he’s always looking for people,” he said.

Cohen and Soskil crossed paths Friday at a breakfast meeting of the Health and Business Alliance, a newly created forum where small-business owners and health-care providers meet to establish mutually beneficial links.

The group is the brainchild of Janine Regosin, a community relations representative at The Holliswood Hospital, who put together the first of the bi-monthly meetings in January.

“I had been doing a lot of networking in the business community,” Regosin said. “And I knew that there were such great ideas there. I thought, ‘How can I tap into that?’”

About 17 people attended Friday’s meeting at The Holliswood Hospital, a 100-bed psychiatric hospital nestled among the residential streets just north of Hillside Boulevard.

Among the topics discussed were the transition from not-for-profit to for-profit, setting up entrepreneurships for the mentally ill, holding a Queens physicians expo and putting up a Web page for participants to exchange ideas.

The lion’s share of the discussion at the meeting focused on mental health, because most of Regosin’s connections are in that field. But she said she hoped to broaden the forum to include those interested in any area of health care.

The hospital provides the meeting space and breakfast for the attendees, but for the most part, the program operates without funds. Its most valuable capital, Regosin said, was the time, knowledge and talents of the participants.

Friday’s attendees included small-business owners from such diverse areas as financial services, computing, medical billing, legal services and consulting.

Geoff Lindenauer came to the meeting hoping to set up small businesses that would be owned and staffed by dually diagnosed patients he works with at Phoenix House. Dually-diagnosed patients are those who are both mentally ill and substance abusers.

“People don’t want to pay for mentally ill substance abusers who have been in jail,” he said. “This would be run by and run for these people. So there’s an equality. It’s not like, ‘I’m doing you a favor by hiring you.’”    

Lindenauer left with the name of a contact at the Small Business Administration.

For Soskil, whose company, Lifespan Healthsciences, markets easy-to-use diagnostic tools such as a saliva diabetes tests, the benefit is making valuable connections with people in the medical field.

“Today, other than the people that I know, which was about 10, I picked up five or six very valuable assets,” he said.

He was particularly excited about the alliance’s plan to hold a physician’s expo, where the group’s participants, whether businesspeople or health-care providers, would set up exhibition booths to provide information, products and services to doctors.

“I could introduce my products to a lot of different offices,” Soskil said.

Cohen, the director of mental health services at PSCH, said she found the meeting “invigorati­ng.”

“The not-for-profits are so used to making connections with other not-for-profits, and maybe that’s not the way to go. This is a new direction to go into. It’s a different way to look at things.”

Reach reporter Alex Ginsberg by e-mail at or call 718-229-0300, Ext. 157.

Posted 7:03 pm, October 10, 2011
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