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Massena hospital CEO reaches out to local clergy

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MASSENA - Some major urban hospitals have a pastor on pay-roll to console patients, their families and staff members after a painful or traumatic event.

However, when patients and practitioners face these kind of experiences at Massena Memorial Hospital, it can be more difficult to receive the consolation a pastor can provide.

In an effort to provide more comprehensive and immediate pastorial services at MMH, Chief Executive Officer Charles F. Fahd recently reached out to the Greater Massena Ministerial Association and asked how they could be more involved.

“Right now there isn’t much for disaster preparedness or for a spiritual advisor (at MMH),” according to Don Curry, pastor of the New Testament Church of Massena and a member of GMMA. “Instead of figuring out how to address post-traumatic stress (after an event), we should have something already in place.”

Tina Corcoran, senior director of Public Relations and Planning at MMH, said often hospital staff members require ministerial services after stressful situations. She used the example of the Norfolk man who fatally shot himself in the hospital’s ER last November, saying that event had a strong impact on patients and staff who were present.

“There’s a lot of stress on the staff afer dealing with a tragedy. Having members of (GMMA) can be a tremendous help with that,” Ms. Corcoran said.

One possibility the GMMA and Mr. Fahd discussed was keeping local ministers on call in the event that a painful or traumatic experience occurs at the hospital. This could provide more immediate and dependable services, Mr. Curry said.

“I think a minister can offer perspective, peace, and help people understand what is going on,” he said.

Mr. Curry noted that ministers may not be trained in post-traumatic services, but can refer one to those kind of resources. George Middleton, pastor for the Northside Community Church and current director of the GMMA, said they also discussed training area ministers in mental health issues.

GMMA and Mr. Fahd also discussed the possibility of holding an annual memorial for all those who’ve passed away at the hospital, something the Canton-Potsdam Hospital already holds. “It’s a very good experience for the staff and the (deceased’s) families,” Mr. Curry said.

Because MMH is a municipally-run hospital, any agreements between MMH and GMMA would require prior approval by the Massena Town Board.

Supervisor Joseph D. Gray warmly welcomed the possibility at MMH’s board of managers meeting this week, saying it’d be a good way to bring the community together for a worthy cause.

“I think part of what happens at (MMH) is to help people deal with these (stressful) situations, and spiritual care can help with that,” Mr. Gray said. “This would be more of a collective effort to meet the spiritual needs of not only the patients and their families, but (also) the staff of the hospital. It should be taken advantage of.”

Mr. Curry said these proposal are still in the early discussion phase, and that no solid plans have yet been set. Mr. Fahd and local ministers will discuss their ideas further at the next GMMA meeting in January.

“We want to be more involved, but exactly when, where and how hasn’t been decided yet,” Mr. Middleton said.

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