07 Oct

LSA, Columbia, and NYAM Partner in HUD Grant to Combat Asthma in East Harlem


October 7, 2015 – New York, NY – The US Dept. of Housing and Urban Development announced on September 30th that Little Sisters of the Assumption Family Health Service (LSA) is a lead partner in a $672,000 grant to study low-cost methods to control asthma triggers in the home. The 3-year grant was awarded to Columbia University in partnership with LSA and The New York Academy of Medicine, and was among $2 million in grant research awards allocated.

“LSA is honored to be a part of this important research,” said Traci Lester, Chief Executive Officer of the Little Sisters of the Assumption Family Health Service. “We’re proud to bring to this partnership our reputation in the community as a trusted and reliable resource. Our Environmental Health Services team has years of experience in fighting the prevalence of asthma in this neighborhood by addressing its underlying causes.”

The intention of the grant is to help families like that of Elizabeth Gonzalez and her three children, all of whom are asthmatic. The family was profiled in a recent article by National Geographic which featured families being served by LSA’s Environmental Health Services. Gonzalez’s apartment walls are damp and moldy, and cockroaches infest the apartment: both conditions which trigger asthma attacks. “I’m happy to have a roof over my head, but this apartment is keeping us sick,” Gonzalez told reporter Lindsey Konkel.

Through the new HUD grant, LSA will conduct an intervention study to evaluate low-cost methods for preventing and controlling mold and excess moisture in the homes of New York City children with asthma. The study will look at the effectiveness of methods to control mold in both the short term (1 year) and long term (2-5 years), and will also examine how the presence of mold impacts health and quality of life.

Ray Lopez, Director of the Environmental Health Services program, said: “The new HUD grant means that we will continue to provide the best possible services to our families. The EHS team is excited to participate in the study, and we think the grant will give us the added confidence that what we do is backed by scientific evidence.”

The awarding of this grant coincides with completion of a 3-year study LSA conducted with the New York Academy of Medicine, also funded by the HUD. That award was the first time HUD ever funded a grant to combat indoor conditions that exacerbate asthma.

The results from this initial study clearly demonstrate a correlation between LSA’s intervention to remove asthma triggers and a decrease in asthma symptoms. A paper on these outcomes has been accepted for publication in an upcoming issue of Environmental Justice, a peer-reviewed journal which covers “the adverse and disparate health impact and environmental burden that affects marginalized populations all over the world.”

The grant is part of HUD’s Healthy Homes Technical Studies (HHTS) Grant Program, which supports research on new approaches to improve the efficacy and cost-effectiveness of methods to evaluate and control housing-related health and safety hazards. The grants announced on September 30th supplement $101 million in grants HUD awarded in August to protect thousands of children from lead and other home health hazards.

Asari Beale, LSA Family Health Services
646) 672-5200

03 Sep

LSA Family Health Service Welcomes Pope Francis to East Harlem

September 9, 2015 – LSA Family Health Service, founded by the Little Sisters of the Assumption, is proud to join Catholic Charities of New York in welcoming Pope Francis to New York City.

The Garcia family – Martina Juárez, her husband Manuel Garcia, two of their children and their grandson – has been invited to represent LSA and its work in the community, at Pope Francis’ reception and blessing at the Our Lady Queen of Angels school in East Harlem on September 25th. They will be among approximately 200 guests, mostly immigrants and refugees served by Catholic Charities of New York, attending the reception. The family has been a recipient of services from LSA Family Health Service for over 10 years and has benefited from the food pantry, advocacy services, early childhood programs and education programs.

See press  coverage, learn more about the Juárez-Garcia family.

Additionally, 225 paper flowers made by mothers at LSA will be on display as centerpieces for the tables at the reception.  The flowers are in the Mexican folk art tradition, and represent the vibrancy of the largely immigrant population served by the agency.

“For over 50 years, we have been carrying out the mission of our founders, the Little Sisters of the Assumption, to uplift the most vulnerable among us,” said Traci Lester, CEO of LSA Family Health Service.  “We are honored to welcome Pope Francis to East Harlem, and to share with him our commitment to serving our neighbors.”

In addition to the Garcia family, Sr. Susanne Lachapelle, a nurse with LSA Family Health Service who has dedicated herself to the care of mothers and infants in East Harlem, will also be in attendance at the Pope’s reception, along with Traci Lester. Other staff from LSA will be on hand to assist families throughout the event.

LSA has posted a video to http://charityhasnoboundaries.org, offering a welcome message to the Pope from our staff and families.  The website was created by Catholic Charities of the Archdiocese of New York to celebrate Pope Francis’ visit to the United States and his universal message of charity.

Pope Francis’ connection to the Little Sisters of the Assumption dates back to his infancy. Sisters from the Little Sisters order in Argentina provided care to his mother and to him and his sister when they were infants.  He has maintained a close relationship with the order, and in 2010 he presided at the celebration for the 100th anniversary of the arrival of the Little Sisters in Argentina.

Sr. Annette Allain, LSA Coordinator, U.S. Territory, stated:

“Pope Francis has a first-hand appreciation of our Mission and Spirituality from an early age due to receiving home care services from the Little Sisters of the Assumption and also from the involvement of his parents and grandparents in our groups.  It is my belief that his sensitivity to the poor and immigrant population grew from his own personal familial experience.  We have been called to become family among the very people Pope Francis loves – those living on the margins of society.  This is a privileged encounter of mutuality, believing that the power of growth is in relationship.  There is no greater gift than Pope Francis’ visit to East Harlem as the Little Sisters of the Assumption celebrate our 150th Anniversary (1865 Paris, France). ”


Download Press Release

About LSA Family Health Service’s participation in Pope Francis’ visit to Our Lady Queen of Angels:

  • LSA Family Health Service, founded by the Little Sisters of the Assumption in 1958 is a Catholic Charity that serves the community of East Harlem.
  • As a Catholic Charity, the organization was invited to send guests to the Pope’s reception at Our Lady Queen of Angels in East Harlem.  LSA is a long-time partner with Our Lady Queen of Angels; a number of children from LSA families attend the school.
  • People attending the Pope’s reception at Our Lady Queen of Angels on behalf of LSA Family Health Service:
    • Martina Juarez, her husband, their two children, and their grandson.  Martina is originally from Mexico, of indigenous origin (Mixteco). The family has benefited from a number of LSA services, including food pantry, early childhood programs, homework help, and tutoring.  Martina’s daughter, who is now in middle school, just started in LSA’s Girls’ Mentoring program.  The family was chosen because they represent so many of LSA’s services and the organization’s mission to strengthen and empower families.
    • Traci Lester, CEO of LSA Family Health Service
    • Sister Susanne Lachappelle, LSA.  Sr. Susanne is a member of the Little Sisters of the Assumption order and a nurse who has provided care for mothers and children in East Harlem for decades.
    • Pura Cruz, a Client Advocate at LSA, has been asked to provide assistance to families at Our Lady Queen of Angels.  Pura was a key member of the outreach team that assisted families in East Harlem after the 2014 gas explosion.
  • Mothers that are a part of the Parenting and Child Development program created 225 flowers, which will be used as centerpieces at Our Lady Queen of Angels. Pope Francis will bless each of the arrangements.
    • The flowers are a traditional folk art of Mexico.  LSA offered to make the flowers for the pope’s visit as a representation of the vibrant spirit of the East Harlem community.
    • A video of the flower-making will be shown at the events with the Pope at Our Lady Queen of Angels and Madison Square Garden.
08 Jun

IDNYC Enrollment Center Opens in East Harlem

LSA Family Health Center Joins City Council in Celebrating the Opening

June 8, 2015 – LSA Family Health Service joined City Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito, Council Member Daniel Dromm, Congressman Charlie Rangel, and city commissioners in kicking off a new IDNYC enrollment center in East Harlem.

Since the launch of IDNYC, LSA has assisted over 140 East Harlem residents to complete their applications and register for the card.

Norma, a parent at LSA, shared the different ways that the card has been useful to her.  “Es una tarjeta oficial y reconocida,” Norma said – it’s an official and recognized card that can be used at schools, stores, banks, and cultural institutions.  For others like Norma, a new enrollment center in El Barrio will mean greater access to city resources.

“The opening of the East Harlem office is pivotal to helping so many of the families served by LSA Family Health Service access much needed City services,” said LSA Executive Director Traci Lester.   “We can’t thank The City Council, and in particular Speaker Mark-Viverito, enough for making this a reality.  IDNYC is an affirmation to the thousands of individuals who struggle to navigate New York City services and institutions without adequate ID.”

LSA has long recognized the need for IDs in the East Harlem community.  In 2012, LSA launched its own ID for clients, which could be used to open bank accounts, get into institutions like hospitals and schools, and as identification with the NYPD.  When the creation of ID NYC was announced, LSA’s clients and staff immediately became involved in the planning process, participating in meetings and forums to help inform the development of the ID.

“We were so happy when the municipal ID came out,” said Lucia Russett, LSA’s Director of Advocacy and Food Pantry.  “In addition to the concrete benefits, it gives a sense of pride as a New Yorker to people who may have felt excluded from that because of their status.”

The new center is located at 162 ½ East 104th Street, between Lexington and 3rd Avenues.  To make an appointment, visit nyc.gov.

2015-6-8 IDNYC launch

16 Apr

Junior Board Event Raises Over $10K

Moscow in Manhattan, the inaugural event for LSA’s new Junior Board, raised over $10,000 for LSA Education and Youth Services.

April 15, 2015 — Over 70 guests filled Moscow 57 on the Lower East Side for “Moscow in Manhattan,” a fundraising event hosted by LSA Family Health Service’s newly established Junior Board. The goal of the Junior Board is to create an opportunity for young professionals to become more deeply engaged with the organization and prepare them to take on greater leadership roles.

LSA’s Junior Board is an extention of the New Friends Committee, a group of young dynamic NYC professionals who want to be involved in LSA’s work in East Harlem. Throughout the year, committee members participate in volunteer activities with LSA families, such as a recent Spring Arts & Crafts event. They also raise funds through social networking events at popular hotspots like Moscow 57.

The success of this approach to recruiting future leaders can be seen in the current Chairman of the Board of Directors, Scott DePetris, who became involved with LSA 15 years ago through the New Friends Committee.

“As a Junior Board member, I know that I’m part of large extended family that includes LSA clients, staff, board and the greater East Harlem community,” said Peter Stonbely, who Co-Chairs the Junior Board with Zia Heller. “It’s an amazing opportunity to feel connected with others in the city and to feel like we’re really making a difference in this neighborhood.”

“Moscow in Manhattan” raised over $10,000 through ticket sales, a raffle and silent auction. The funds raised will be used to support LSA Education and Youth Services, which include after-school tutoring, summer programs and a girls mentoring program.

One of the evening highlights was when Karla, a 12th grade high school student, spoke about her experience in LSA education programs. Karla’s family immigrated to East Harlem from Mexico when she was 5 years old. “I didn’t know a speck of English,” she said. “I didn’t even have friends because of the language barrier. LSA formed a community for me. I was able to learn English and excel in my academics. My mentor, Megan Newman, has exposed to me so many things I would have never thought I would be able to do. She taught me that, no matter what my background and circumstances are, I can always do anything I put my mind to.”

Today, Karla has been accepted to 12 of the 13 colleges to which she applied, thanks to the guidance of her mentor and the LSA Director of Education and Youth Services, Martha Andrade-Dousdebes. Funds raised at Moscow 57 will help LSA continue to support the educational and personal development of children like Karla.

Special thanks to auction donors:

54 Below
Brooke Charlesworth
East River Wines and Spirits
Evelyn’s Kitchen
Harley’s Smokeshack
J. McLaughlin
King’s Carriage House
The Linen Shop
Nocciola Ristorante
Peter Stonbely

11 Mar

Remembering the 2014 Gas Line Explosion

March 12, 2015 — Today is the anniversary of the gas line explosion that caused two buildings to collapse just a few short blocks from our office here in East Harlem.  We grieve with those who lost family members and friends, and recognize the struggle faced by those displaced or whose homes and property were damaged as a result of the explosion.

We also express deep gratitude for the outpouring of support from around the NYC region: LSA received donations of clothing, linen, towels, toiletries, and even mattresses.  And we acknowledge our partner agencies in the community, who collaborated with us to meet the emotional and material needs of our neighbors who were affected.

LSA’s Response

We knew there were LSA clients living both in and near the buildings that collapsed. Within hours of the explosion, we began outreach to families and were able to provide assistance right away.  LSA client advocates went to PS 57, the temporary center for people in need of immediate assistance.  They were able to identify families that needed help and, as the few Spanish speakers on site, were able to translate for the Red Cross and provide comfort to those who spoke no English.

In the days that followed, our Advocacy program formed a team that went door-to-door throughout the neighborhood to identify more families in need of support, who may not have otherwise come forward due to language barriers or immigration status.  In addition, our Environmental Health program responded to the potential health risks of dust and debris in the air.

After the explosion, LSA:

  • Provided food from our pantry.
  • Replaced damaged property, including clothing, bedding, and anything else families needed to get on their feet again.
  • Helped families in neighboring buildings clean dust and broken glass from their homes.
  • Provided air filters and conducted lead tests.
  • Continued to monitor homes to make sure they were safe to live in.

A year later, families we helped still come to LSA.  Most were able to find new homes in East Harlem, while a few have chosen to remain outside the neighborhood.  They continue to share with us their grief and their fear.  LSA remains a source of help and emotional support to those in need.

05 Jan

Dateline NBC: “Breathless” Special Report on Asthma and Poverty

LSA families and Ray Lopez, Director of Environmental Health Services, talk to Lester Holt about asthma and LSA’s efforts to fight the mold, pests, and indoor toxins that trigger asthma.

“LSA has been focused on the asthma issue in poor neighborhoods for over a decade,” explained Ray Lopez. “We’ve been working hands-on with families at home to eliminate mold, pests and toxins so they can breathe again.””

Watch the segment of “Breathless” featuring LSA on Dateline NBC

LSA Family Health Service on Dateline’s ‘Breathless,’ Exposing the Link Between Poverty and Asthma.

EAST HARLEM (January 5th, 2014) —  Dateline NBC has completed a special report, “Breathless” that investigates the link between poverty and asthma and following two families whose children suffer from asthma because of mold, leaks and deteriorating walls that have been neglected by NYCHA, New York City’s  public housing authority. Ray Lopez, the Director of Environmental Health and Family Asthma at LSA Family Health Service (the “Little Sisters”), a nonprofit in East Harlem, is featured playing a key role in identifying the causes and triggers of asthma in the families’ apartmenst, particularly mold. The program will air on Sunday, January 5th, 2014 at 7 pm nationwide (For a sneak preview go to bit.ly/NBClsa).

Children ages 5-18 living in the poorest neighborhoods, like East Harlem, the South Bronx and the Lower East Side, suffer from asthma rates exceeding 18%—twice the NYC and US averages. Participants in LSA’s program show a 64% reduction in emergency room visits and 45% reduction in missed school days.

“LSA has been focused on the asthma issue in poor neighborhoods for over a decade,” explained Ray Lopez. We’ve been working hands-on with families at home to eliminate mold, pests and toxins so they can breathe again.” He added, “Having our program featured on Dateline validates our work and gives this largely unrecognized public health crisis the attention it deserves. I am hopeful that because of Dateline’s Breathless we will be able to have an even greater impact on the lives of those suffering with asthma.”

Dateline’s Lester Holt follows Javier Sepulveda, a client in LSA’s program, who learns, thanks to home visits made by Ray Lopez and his team of community health workers, that his daughter’s asthma is caused by roach infestations and rampant mold in his bathroom.

Ray Lopez and his Environmental Health team have been working with the poorest families in disadvantaged neighborhoods for over a decade, making assessments and showing families how they can remediate unhealthful conditions. LSA’s skilled nurses also make home visits to treat and manage the asthma symptoms— together literally changing the lives of children whose health has been seriously undermined by asthma.

Javier Sepulveda ultimately chooses to challenge NYCHA in court, holding them responsible for making repairs and removing mold, as well as the sources of moisture that cause it on behalf of other families in public housing. But LSA is always on hand to help him and other families mitigate triggers when landlords won’t

Lopez, who was named Urban Health Champion last may by the New York Academy of Medicine also played a key role in Javier’s suit against NYCHA as a member of the community group Manhattan Together. The suit charged the agency with violating the rights of asthma suffers under the Americans with Disabilities Act. NYCHA settled the suit in December 2012, agreeing to rewrite their mold policy and set forth a system of expediting repairs that impact indoor air, including mold and leaks.

Mr. Lopez has brought his expertise in mitigating asthma triggers (in both private and public housing) to a HUD-funded, 3-year research project, CAHR, with the New York Academy of Medicine, to study the impact improved indoor air quality has on asthma and health. Preliminary findings support that mold and indoor contaminants like pests and crumbling walls exacerbate asthma.