Chaplain Support Program Brings Spiritual Connection to Those With Mental Illness
JF&CS News Summer 2017
Todd Beyer was many things – intelligent, a caring son to his mother Judy, an avid Red Sox fan, and a devoted Jew. He was also someone who struggled for many years with mental illness before he passed away in 2015 from health complications at age 59. While he was well-served by many JF&CS programs and services, including Supported Housing, Chaverim Shel Shalom, and Your Elder Experts, what became most meaningful toward the end of his life was weekly one-on-one tutoring by rabbinic interns organized by Your Elder Experts.
“The idea was to study Hebrew and the Torah portion of the week but it grew into so much more,” said Susan Bernat, a licensed clinical social worker who worked with Todd for several years through the geriatric care management program Your Elder Experts. She shared that Todd enjoyed singing songs with his tutors in addition to studying and “kibitzing.”
“Todd really loved having this spiritual and Judaic connection,” Bernat said. “The rabbinic interns truly enriched his quality of life, and helped his mother as well by providing her with some peace knowing that her son was getting additional emotional and spiritual support.”
After Todd died, his mother wanted to express her gratitude to JF&CS in a meaningful way and she remembered how much the rabbinic interns helped. “I thought it would be wonderful if some of the other people served by JF&CS could have that experience,” said Judy Beyer of Delmar, NY. “People with mental health challenges could be uplifted. This would be something a little extra.”
With a generous donation in memory of Todd, JF&CS now provides five hours per month of chaplain support for people with mental illness. Serviced by Chaverim Shel Shalom, the program hired a chaplain, Hali Diecidue, to do group work and provide one-on-one visits for people who are experiencing mental illness anywhere that individual would be, whether it is at home, on the phone, in a hospital, or in the community. The program is funded for five years; additional donations would increase availability options.
Since the program began last fall, Hali has been there to support several people with mental illness who are served by JF&CS and who have experienced the loss of family members. For this, Judy is grateful.
“It makes me feel good to think that something that was a tragedy for me could turn into something meaningful for others,” she said.
For more information about the chaplain support program, contact Sandy Slavet at firstname.lastname@example.org or 781-693-5640.
View all articles from the JF&CS News Summer 2017 edition.