In the News
Incoming RMHA executive director Dr. Donna Demetri Friedman
Posted September 30, 2016 on the Riverdale Press
Bronx, N.Y. — At its Thu., Oct. 20 annual meeting, the Riverdale Mental Health Association will introduce incoming Executive Director Dr. Donna Demetri Friedman to address important new developments and her vision for RMHA in 2017 and beyond. Friedman, who succeeds Robert Brewster on Jan. 1, is a licensed social worker, an NYU adjunct associate professor and, for the last 10 years, the deputy executive director of RMHA.
“As New York State’s behavioral and overall healthcare systems become integrated, RMHA is poised to maintain its focus on high quality, personalized care for our community while meeting the technological and fiscal demands of this challenge,” said Friedman, a former marketing manager for Nestlé Foods, who earned doctorate and master’s degrees in clinical social work from NYU as well as a master’s in clinical psychology.
“I am excited to take the lead in this endeavor and look forward to partnering with our board, legislators and other community organizations to do so,” added Friedman.
Dr. Friedman has been with the agency for 23 years and was a resident of Riverdale for over a decade. She is to become the fourth executive director of RMHA, which was founded in 1959. Brewster announced his retirement in the spring after a decade in the role and 36 years with the organization.
Brewster stepping down from RMHA
Posted May 18, 2016 on the Riverdale Press
By Alice Guilhamon
After 36 years at the Riverdale Mental Health Association (RMHA), Robert Brewster is stepping down.
“There’s no perfect time to make this kind of a transition, but I’m older than I look, as I say to the board, and I think we’re in a good place,” Mr. Brewster said with a smile.
Mr. Brewster firmly believes mental health care is “everybody’s business,” as he puts it, and that good clinical services are a right for everyone.
“We’re all better off when these services are of good quality, well funded and well targeted,” he added.
He has spent the past decade as executive director of his organization, a period that saw RMHA branch out from its Riverdale base.
“We have developed satellite clinics in schools, in senior services centers,” Mr. Brewster said. “We do consulting. We’re trying to take a number of steps to reduce stigma.”
The idea is for mental health professionals to go to clients, not the other way around. That is because mental health is often ignored or not discussed, Mr. Brewster said.
“There might be, for example, an elder person who for whatever reason doesn’t want to come here. The word mental health still is a negative word for many people,” he added. “If they go at their seniors’ program and can see a physician, if they’re worried about cognitive loss or isolation for instance, they can get care right there, where they go everyday, anyway.”
Mr. Brewster was particularly proud of “Parachute NYC.” About four years ago, the state provided funds for one center in each borough as an alternative to sending patients to costly psychiatric wards. Residents are generally limited to a stay of two weeks at the local Parachute NYC site at a three-story brick building run by RMHA beside the Henry Hudson Parkway.
“It helps people to be in a non-institutional alternative to hospitalization,” Mr. Brewster said. “The idea is to provide better care at substantially better costs
Prior to coming to RMHA, Mr. Brewster was a teacher in New Hampshire.
“I realized that if a kid came from a family where there was support and responsiveness to his needs, it didn’t really matter if I was a good teacher or a bad teacher; they would have an okay year because they came from a structure that provided them what they needed,” he said. “The kids that were at risk were going to be much more influenced by what kind of a teacher they had, a responsive one or someone that went by the book no matter what. I really wanted to try to have more influence on people who are really at risk, kids or adults.”
That’s when he decided to study social work. After applying to schools throuhgout the country, he went to Columbia University and joined RMHA one year after graduating.
He started out working with substance abuse patients as well as children and adolescents. He has worked in every other department at RMHA since.
When Mr. Brewster steps down at the end of the year, Donna Demetri Friedman will take over. She has been working for 20 years at RMHA, where she is the current deputy executive director.
Mr. Brewster said RMHA will keep focusing on responsive, evidence-based care, noting that one of the organization’s strengths is its relatively small size.
“We believe that every mind matters. Every single person — young child, teenager, adult or elder person — mental health concerns everybody,” he said. “The more we can talk openly about it and make services readily available, and reduce the stigma, the stronger is the community.”
Get to know your local mental health association
By Robert M. Brewster Posted
As a non-profit, mission-driven community behavioral health provider, we are heartened by the recent articles on behavioral health in The Riverdale Press. The most recent article, in last week’s edition of The Press, described Parachute NYC*, an innovative alternative to hospitalization for people experiencing emotional crises. We are proud to have been designated by the New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene as the sole provider in the Bronx to participate in Parachute NYC. In a landscape of increasing need for services paired with decreased funding, Parachute is an inspiring call to action, a research-based model that, compared to traditional hospitalization, provides more effective treatment and follow-up at vastly reduced cost.
Since its inception nearly two years ago, Parachute NYC has provided community-based options that focus on overall wellness, recovery and hope. It is staffed largely by peers who, having experienced their own mental health challenges, are able to serve as mentors to Parachute guests. The RMHA Parachute Crisis Respite Center, housed in the Joyce Pilsner Community Residence on West 232nd Street, serves 10 guests for stays up to two weeks. Guests have private rooms and access to common living spaces, maintain their own schedules, are able to attend school and work, and to interact with other guests and staff. The CRC offers a warm and supportive environment, access to recovery and relapse prevention skills, and access to trained Peer Specialists. A Support Line (646-741-HOPE) is also available for those experiencing emotional distress.
Our goal in Parachute NYC, as in all of our programs at RMHA, is to support those who seek help, to decrease suffering, lessen the likelihood that an individual will require costly and isolating hospitalization, and instead provide a compassionate setting free of stigma. When barriers to good treatment are lowered, those who need help are better able to access high quality care.
We invite you to get to know RMHA better by scheduling a visit to our main clinic or to the Parachute Crisis Respite Center. We also welcome you to join us at our sixth annual Healthy Minds/Healthy Bodies 5K Run/Walk on Sunday, April 26 at 11 a.m. at the Tortoise and the Hare statue in Van Cortlandt Park. Details on our programs and events are at www.rmha.org.
*Parachute is supported by Funding Opportunity Number CMS-1C1-12-0001 from Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, Center for Medicare and Medicaid Innovation. Robert M. Brewster is the executive director of the Riverdale Mental Health Association.
Link for online article:
Below you will find an archived collection of interesting and informative news articles about RMHA and mental health in the media.
- 12/27/12 Riverdale Press: Lip service won’t fund mental health
- 1/4/11 The Riverdale Press: Riverdale Mental Health Honors Mental Health Advocates in Sports
- 4/21/11 World Tennis Magazine: Depression is like a tennis match
- 9/7/10 New York Times: Men’s Group Gets Men Talking – RMHA’s Collaboration with Riverdale Senior Services
- 1/8/10 The Americanization of Mental Illness ‚ New York Times Article
- 12/3/09 Blog Post: The Hidden Cost of Mental Illness
- 5/28/09 Video Clip: Sportscaster Scott Clark Honored at RMHA Gala – Spring 2009
- 5/14/09 Channel 7 Eyewitness News 6pm video clip ‚ RMHA Invokes Scott Clark Day
- 4/30/09 RMHA Hosts 1st Annual 5K Run/Walk ‚ Van Cortlandt Park
- 1/29/09 RMHA featured in The Riverdale Press ‚ Anxiety Over Economy