Tuesday, April 23, 2024

New Journeys, a day program for brain injured, Alzheimer’s, dementia

By Cathy DeDe, Chronicle Managing Editor

Open just since May, and flying much under the radar so far, the New Journeys Structured Day Program on Dix Avenue offers socialization and activities for those with dementia or traumatic brain injuries, as well as respite for their caregivers. “It’s been slow going getting the word out,” says director Kelly Hanafin.

Located behind the Little Caesar’s takeout at East Field Medical Arts Plaza, the New Journeys suite has two large social rooms with craft tables and couches, a kitchen and a quiet break-out space.

‘New Journeys’ in Queensbury — The crew on hand last Friday afternoon during an art project. Seated (first names only for clients): Lynn; Jen, who goes by the nickname ‘Pooh’; and Harriet. Standing: Spouse Ken Baker, staff member Jody Millington, program director Kelly Hanafin (center), staff member DeeDee Russell, and Cindy. Chronicle photo/Cathy DeDe

Not-for-profit New Journeys is one arm of a wide range of mental health and social support programs offered by “Kee to Independent Growth, Inc,” founded and run by president Karen Le’Que.

“I was a case manager for people with developmental disabilities,” Mrs. Le’Que says. “I felt some organizations tried to milk the system, so I left and started my own in a bedroom of my house in Ballston Spa. That was 15 years ago. Now I have 50 employees.”

Mrs. Le’Que emphasizes, “This is just one part of what we do. We provide a lot of other services through mental health, substance abuse, clinical services, a lot of aspects to encompass all of the person’s needs. We cover counseling for family members, even in the home, service coordination, connecting to thousands of services in the area.”

She said much is funded through Medicaid’s “NHTD” or “Nursing Home Transition and Diversion” program, that aims to help individuals with long-term disorders leave or avoid nursing home care.

While her organization deals in a potentially befuddling multitude of acronyms, government entities and insurance providers, Mrs. Le’Que says the bottom line is, “A lot of people don’t realize they or their family members are even eligible.

“I would tell them, just c’mon in and lets do an intake and see.”

A day at New Journeys

“We want it to be the place you feel good bringing your loved ones,” Ms. Hanafin says.

“We have a good time here,” one client offers, looking up from the craft table.

Ken Baker, whose wife was for many years a child care provider, says, “She needs the social interaction to keep her connections, and to be able to have conversations with people, even when she’s by herself, not here. It’s great.”

Clients spend a day or half day. The schedule typically includes art or cooking projects, Ms. Hanafin said, discussion on topics of general interest, physical activity and outings to restaurants, for shopping or to visit area attractions.

During Covid, “it was such a mess with nursing homes, she says. “What we saw is how important social programs are.”

They expanded their one New Journeys program in Ballston Spa to accommodate more senior citizens, added a second program in Malta, now this one in Glens Falls, and were just approved to open another in Schenectady, Mrs. Le’Que said.

One benefit, Mrs. Le’Que says, is how New Journeys integrates young and old clients, “who support and teach each other with their different strengths.”

For caregivers, “it gives…an outlet to have least have a day or some time to themselves,” Ms. Hanafin says. “With these illnesses, it’s a 24/7 thing. There’s a lot of lack of sleep, a lack of care for yourself.”

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