Community Reintegration Programs

At The Mount Sinai Spinal Cord Injury Program, we offer several programs designed to facilitate community reintegration. Activities include a day program for individuals who have completed inpatient rehabilitation called the Do-It! Program, a Life Challenge Adventure program, several support groups including a women-only group, a community access group called CARE, a meditation group, and a structured peer mentoring program.

We created the Mount Sinai Spinal Cord Injury Do-It! Program in 1995 to help persons with spinal cord injuries return to school or work.

The program is designed to flexibly address patients’ needs as they adjust to their disability. We can adjust components of the consumer–driven program as needs arise and change. Bi-annual surveys and focus groups of participants provide information on perceived needs and suggested program changes and additions. The Do It! program focuses on personal empowerment and the elimination of internal and external barriers to community integration.

Since 1995, about 20 new persons with SCI have entered the Do-It! Program each year. The majority of the participants are newly injured, coming directly from the SCI Rehabilitation Unit. Some come from the community with specific goals such as returning to school, participating in volunteer opportunities or going back to work.

The program is composed of both individual therapy and group classes. View a sample schedule.

The Life Challenge Program enables individuals with SCI opportunities to participate in activities that may seem impossible because of their disability. An SCI outreach coordinator organizes and supervises all activities, which vary from “simple and safe” local outings (e.g., attending a movie and going to a Broadway show) to out-of-town, “high-activity” day-long trips (e.g., horseback riding or kayaking), and from learning new leisure skills (such as swimming and scuba diving) to “on-the-edge” adventure trips (e.g., whitewater rafting, glider plane rides, skydiving, and snow skiing). By participating in a Life Challenge Program activity, individuals with SCI and their family members are invited to face community-based obstacles together. The goals of the Life Challenge Program are to:

  • Educate newly injured persons about recreational activities in which they can engage within the community
  • Introduce problem-solving strategies for overcoming obstacles in real life situations that are outside familiar surroundings
  • Build confidence and self-esteem
  • Create bonds among persons with SCI and establish peer networks in the community

Over the last 10 years, more than 250 individuals with SCI have participated in 85 different Life Challenge Program events.

If you are interested in attending one of the trips or would like more information, please contact Richard (Woody) Wood at richard.wood1@mountsinai.org.

Women on Wheels (W.O.W.) is a sisterhood of women with spinal injuries dedicated to living life to the fullest.

With the support of Mount Sinai Health System and New York City Spinal Cord Injury Association, our program has developed the first SCI women’s group in New York City. The SCI population is approximately 20 percent women, making us a minority within a minority in our society. We provide women with SCI the space to share their personal and intimate concerns with other women across age ranges, injury types and levels, and years of experience.

Our group meets weekly. We discuss various topics such as dating and sexuality, self-image, relationships with family, partners and friends, education, independence, co-dependence, self-advocacy, and dis/Ability as identity.  We seek to empower, educate, and support one another.

If you are interested in attending a meeting, email womenonwheelsnyc@gmail.com or visit our website.

The Transitions Group provides counseling, support, and education to all members, with an emphasis on facilitating adjustment to those who are more recently injured.

Our weekly group plays a powerful role in the lives of both inpatients and outpatients. Our topic-based group discusses a wide range of issues including loss and grief, overcoming fear, pitfalls of isolation, self-image, guilt, asking for help, dealing with the able-bodied world, dating, redefining your independence, family, and parenting. We even tackle more intense subjects such as self-blame, drug and alcohol dependence, depression, and “is life worth living after a spinal cord injury?” Our emotionally laden discussions are often softened by humor (frequently generated by the group members themselves), making discussions less intimidating and easier to participate in.

Our lunch group immediately follows Transitions, allowing for a more casual gathering. Those who are more shy and reticent in Transitions Group tend to pair with a mentor to discuss issues they may have been too uncomfortable to address in the larger group. We also provide additional support and information. We give individuals with SCI the opportunity to try eating with adaptive equipment or being fed in a public setting. These are important hurdles to overcome to ensure a smooth transition into the community.

If you are interested in attending Transitions Group or want more information, please contact Angela Riccobonno, PhD at angela.riccobono@mountsinai.org to arrange a brief phone evaluation to ensure the group is appropriate for you.

The SCI Peer Mentoring Program matches recently injured persons with trained mentors who are living successfully with SCI. The mentors, whom we have trained, provide support and guidance as the newly affected persons  transition from the rehabilitation unit to the community. We pair mentees are paired with mentors  based on  common background and interests, while  the newly injured person is still an inpatient. After mentees are discharged, their mentors support them for at least six months by phone, email, or in person.

The following are goals of our program:

  • Educate newly injured persons about the physical, medical, social, vocational, and psychological aspects of SCI
  • Provide emotional support and guidance
  • Provide information regarding community organizations and resources
  • Offer models of successful community integration for individuals with recent SCI
  • Give mentors opportunities to build self-esteem and enhance their quality of life through service to others

Since our inception, we have trained 135 peer mentors with SCI in 13 peer mentor training sessions. We have matched more than 300 persons with recent SCI with peer mentors. Our popular program enhances mentees’ sense of empowerment, increases their knowledge about SCI and community resources, and augments their ability to communicate with professional and family members. We work closely with the New York Chapter of the National Spinal Cord Injury Association where we recruit many peer mentors.

We have created a training manual for the Peer Mentoring program, as well as a manual to help other organizations and agencies develop SCI Peer Mentoring programs. The training manuals were created with the support of the Craig H. Neilsen Foundation and the National Institute on Disability and Rehabilitation Research.

If you would like to become a mentor or participate in peer mentoring training or would like to be paired with a mentor, please contact James Cesario at james.cesario@mountsinai.org or Richard (Woody) Wood at richard.wood1@mountsinai.org.

The Mount Sinai Community Access ReEntry (CARE) program promotes socialization, independence, and active leisure participation post injury. We achieve this by participating in community outings at various venues throughout the city. Individuals learn about accessibility and strategies for overcoming barriers to achieve optimum independence and quality of life.

Since its inception, the CARE program has taken many trips into the community to baseball games, Broadway shows, tours of NBC Studios, movies, restaurants, and film festivals. Our trips are organized through the Rehabilitation Medicine Recreational Therapy Services at The Mount Sinai Hospital.

If you are interested in the CARE Program, please contact our recreational therapist, Valerie Miller at valerie.miller@mountsinai.org or at 212-241-9188.

 

A spinal cord injury (SCI) affects quality of life in many ways including personal health, feelings of safety and independence, and the ability to earn an income, access material comforts, have and raise children, and develop close relationships with significant partners and a supportive network of friends.

In the SCI Meditation Group, we use guided meditation to help patients develop a sense of mental and physical balance, build a foundation to nurture and grow. And learn to move through life with grace and ease.

Our focus is to give those with SCI a safe place to come together, to support each other and share experiences, and to gain the confidence to be as independent as possible, with the best quality of life possible.

The SCI Meditation Group meets the last Friday of every month at The Mount Sinai Hospital from 1:30 pm to 2:30 pm.

If you are interested in attending or would like more information, please contact Richard (Woody) Wood at richard.wood@mountsinai.org.

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