Monday, Feb 06th

EllmansMark and Anne Ellman, ready to help at the Westchester County CenterWhile some of us have been focused on how and where we’ll get a vaccine, some of our neighbors have been working to administer thousands of vaccines at the Westchester County Center. Anne and Mark Ellman saw the call for volunteers to man the effort in January and quickly stepped up, though they were not immune to the mighty virus. This week, Scarsdale resident, Dara Gruenberg joined the effort as well.

Here is what they shared:

Anne and Mark Ellman

(Q) How did you get involved?

(A) In the January 7, 2021 edition of Scarsdale10583 we saw an article that said that Westchester Medical Center (WMC) was looking for volunteers for the County Center location. We provided information on-line that allowed WMC to do a background check. Several days later we were accepted into the program. Due to the substantial need for volunteers, they have asked volunteers to make a long-term commitment. There is no guarantee that volunteers will get vaccinated.

The announcement said, “Volunteers are needed to assist with operations and activities at vaccination sites, such as registration and check-in, data entry, greeting and routing participants, traffic flow, and other administrative tasks. Volunteers with specific clinical credentials to administer the vaccine are also needed. Volunteers must be 18 years of age in good health and proficient in English, with bi-lingual skills also being important. Those working at the vaccination site will be provided with training, PPE and will be able to receive the vaccine, if they wish.

Site locations will be announced in the coming days and will operate 7 days a week. Multiple shifts are available. Volunteers are asked to commit to three shifts a week during a 30-day commitment.
To register to be a part of this historic vaccine program, please click here.

(Q) Did you already have immunity? Were you concerned about exposure?

(A) Neither of us have had Covid and as far as we know, we did not have immunity.
Yes, We were very concerned about exposure and continue to be, but feel we are minimizing that risk.

(Q) What training did you have - what did you learn?

(A) The training is on the job. It is not complicated and is handled on the day of your first volunteer session. We have learned many things. Clearly, many of the people, particularly the elderly, have not been in a public space for many, many months. There is a lot of anxiety. They need to have warm eyes peering above the mask and a smile behind the mask to make them feel comfortable in such a large space with so many people. And yes, they can tell we are smiling behind the masks!

The whole experience can be overwhelming for them. That said, the County Center operation is so well run, with many, many dedicated people. Almost without exception, people leave marveling at the massive, well run operation. Yes, there have been a few days that had long waits. But considering that they are asked to handle as much as an extra 1,000 plus people in a day due to weather related cancellations, many of whom come well before their assigned time in order to beat the snow predicted later that day, the performance has been amazingly efficient. I know one of the last days I worked they said they averaged 299 people an hour for the day.

(Q) What precautions do you take when you go to the center?

(A) We double mask with one being an N95 and we wear clear goggles. We try to be very conscience of our distance to people.

(Q) What is your role?

(A) Every day is different. Welcoming and reassuring guests once they check in and enter the queue, Keeping the queue moving forward, Answering basic questions about the process, Directing newly vaccinated guests to the observation room, data entry, and other general tasks, as needed such as pushing wheel chairs or cleaning pens!

(Q) What has surprised you about the experience?

(A) It is a team effort to make the County Center vaccination program run. Of course you need the medical staff to give the actual vaccine but the National Guard, EMS, Parks Department, Law Enforcement and volunteers are all a part of what makes it work so well. The dedication of all of those involved is truly inspirational.

(Q) Have any of the people who were vaccinated had bad reactions immediately after receiving their shot?

(A) The County Center only gives the Pfizer vaccine. We have seen very few reactions to the vaccine. Generally it has been mostly anxiety and the EMS staff is always available and very present for anyone in need.

(Q) Why have you found it fulfilling?daraFrom Left to Right, Scarsdale residents Dara Gruenberg, Benazir Kannan and Marcy Krevitt.

(A) We have the time to give to the program and they need us and appreciate all that we do. The volunteers are a big part of the whole operation. It would be hard to do it without us. Most people leave and compliment us on what an amazing experience they had. The scope and scale of the national vaccination effort is historic and it is really fulfilling to help play a little part in it. Seeing so many elderly so relieved to be finally receiving their vaccines and anticipating getting their normal lives back is the best part of it.Dara Gruenberg

Dara Gruenberg, who just began this week gave her initial impressions of the operation. She said, “The County Center Vaccine Facility is a well oiled machine. The Westchester Medical Center Staff, site administrators, the National Guard, members of Westchester County Parks, EMTs and local law enforcement and volunteers all work together seamlessly to help people feel comfortable and move them through to get their vaccinations in an efficient and safe manner. Everyone is so cheerful, and people are constantly thanking one another. It is such an uplifting environment to be in especially after being so isolated this last year. It is invigorating and inspiring to be able to help in this way. I feel honored to be a part of this historic moment and full of hope that we are beginning to see the light at the end of the tunnel. The best part of the job is interacting with people arriving to get their vaccines and chatting with them to put them at ease.”

healthyfoodThe start of a new year symbolizes a fresh start, a chance to reassess our lives and set new goals. Two of the most common pledges we make every year are to lose weight and get in shape. To help achieve your aspiration of realizing a healthier you can follow the three M’s – Mediterranean diet, mindfulness and movement.

Take a Trip to the Mediterranean

The Mediterranean diet emphasizes eating lots of vegetables, fruits, nuts, and seafood, with liberal use of olive oil and a limited intake of red meat. It’s not without its rewards – the diet plan also allows for a few glasses of red wine per week.

With easy to follow guidelines the diet has proven to be so successful that U.S. News & World Report recently ranked it No. 1 on its 39 Best Diets Overall list, labeling it as a Best-Heart Healthy Diet.  “Because it’s plant-based and it removes packaged foods, sugar, and saturated fats from your diet, it creates a core deficit that can help you lose weight,” says Diane May, MPH, MS, RD, CDN, CSOWM, a registered dietician with Scarsdale Medical Group. “Studies have shown the Mediterranean diet can reduce the risk of heart disease, as well as the incidence of cognitive impairment associated with dementia. It’s not a fad diet. It’s been used in research and is evidence-based.”

Put Your Mind at Ease

Mindfulness, the practice of focusing on the moment at hand, has been found to be a key element in stress reduction and overall happiness. People who practice mindfulness have seen an improvement in mental illnesses such as depression, anxiety, and obsessive-compulsive disorder, and experienced relief from physical ailments such as chronic pain, irritable bowel syndrome and high blood pressure.

“Deep breathing is an easy method that can help ease stress,” says Mary Beth Schmidt, Senior Staff Chaplain at White Plains Hospital. “If you’re in a tense situation, take a deep breath, hold it for five seconds, and then let it go for ten seconds. It will lower your blood pressure and change how your body reacts to stress.”WhitePlainsHospitalSponsorBanner

Chaplain Schmidt also suggests mindful eating. Most of the time we don’t pay attention to what we’re eating because we’re preoccupied or eating at our desk while we work. When we eat with more mindfulness, paying attention to the texture and taste of the food, we slow down and digest our food better which helps get more vitamins and minerals and aids in overall digestive health.

Move it! The Advantages of Movement and Exercise

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s National Center for Health Statistics, only 23% of Americans 18 and older meet the federal standards for aerobic and muscle-strengthening exercise.
Movement affects many aspects of our health including circulation, digestion and immunity. It also helps our bodies regulate hormone activity and detoxify.

“It sounds obvious, but the little things like enjoying the outdoors, walking, or playing with your pets are great for your overall health and also allow you to be alone with your thoughts and center yourself for whatever you’re going to face next,” says Dr. Christopher Robles, Family Medicine and Primary Care physician at White Plains Hospital Physician Associates.

Small changes, every day …. by following the three M’s you may soon look in the mirror and see the promise of a healthier you fulfilled.

PaulinwithMaskThis week, Governor Cuomo has signed legislation proposed by Assemblymember Amy Paulin that repeals the section of New York State Penal Law establishing the crime of loitering for the purposes of prostitution, commonly known as the "Walking While Trans" ban. The law was passed by the NYS Assembly and NYS Senate where it was endorsed by Majority Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins.

The current law was enacted in 1976 and permits the police to arrest persons based on an assumption that they are occupying a public space with the purpose of engaging in prostitution, even if the assumption is not evidence-based. The statute allows arbitrary observations such as one’s dress or appearance as grounds for arrest. Police reports cite “wearing a skirt,” “waving at a car,” and “standing somewhere other than a bus stop or taxi stand” as reasons to make an arrest under the law.

The law disproportionately affects trans women, particularly trans women of color. In a 2016 class-action lawsuit brought by the Legal Aid Society challenging the law, five of the eight named plaintiffs were transgender women of color arrested for simply standing outside, speaking to one another, or walking home from the subway or grocery store. “A woman can be improperly arrested and detained simply because an officer takes issue with her clothing or appearance,” the Legal Aid Society wrote in its lawsuit. The suit lists examples of women who have been targeted: “women assumed to be loitering for prostitution because they were wearing a ‘short dress,’ ‘a skirt and high heels,’ ‘tight black pants,’ or ‘a black dress.’”

In 2019, 57 people were arrested under the statute, of which 53% were in Queens and 23% were in Brooklyn, according to data from the New York Department of Criminal Justice Service (DCJS). Of the 152 people arrested under the statute in 2018, 80% were women, 49% were African-American and 42% were Latino, also according to DCJS data, with more than half of the arrests in New York City taking place in Queens. In 2013 and 2014, the advocacy group Red Umbrella Project found that in one Brooklyn court 94% of the defendants charged under the law were African-American.

In 2020, there were only 6 arrests made under the current statute – further underlining the archaic nature of the law and need for its repeal.

Compounding the problem of discriminatory and arbitrary arrest, transgender people frequently experience physical, sexual, and verbal abuse at the hands of police. Sixty-one percent of transgender New Yorkers recently surveyed were subjected to police misconduct, including incidences of sexual assault, while a similar number of respondents reported that their experiences of police harassment discouraged them from seeking the assistance of law enforcement altogether.

“The harassment prompted by the current law has been borne heavily by victims of human trafficking, and abused and exploited women, and does not reflect the reality that these victims deserve our help and support to escape their harmful environments, rather than submit them to further harm and degradation. The Legislature’s passage of this bill will thankfully repeal our draconian and deeply harmful current law,” said Assembly sponsor Amy Paulin (D-Westchester).

District Attorney’s Association of the State of New York

“On behalf of the District Attorney’s Association of the State of New York, I would like to thank New York State Assemblymember Amy Paulin and the Assembly Majority for pursuing legislation to repeal Penal Law Section 240.37. Loitering for the Purpose of Engaging in Prostitution is an outdated statute that could be used to wrongfully profile those based on gender expression or appearance. As prosecutors, we do not aim to penalize those who are already being victimized or sexually exploited, which is why District Attorneys across the State of New York actively support the ongoing commitment of resources to victims of sex trafficking. Many of these resources are very much needed and have been effective in connecting those involved in the sex trade with the resources that enable them to address their needs and prevent further trafficking and abuse." Monroe County District Attorney, Sandra Doorley, President District Attorneys Association of the State of New York

Brooklyn District Attorney

“I commend the Assembly for passing the bill repealing the ‘Loitering for the Purpose of Prostitution’ law, which my office no longer prosecutes. The current law’s vagueness allows the police wide discretion in whom to target for enforcement, and our experience shows that those arrested are overwhelmingly people of color, with trans women of color, already a highly vulnerable group that experiences discrimination in every area of their lives, disproportionately arrested under this law,” said Brooklyn District Attorney Eric Gonzalez. 

Nassau County District Attorney

“I am glad to see the Assembly pass a repeal of this unnecessary and abuse-prone law that has been used to further victimize some of the most vulnerable members of our communities. Those who claim this legislation legalizes prostitution have either not read the bill, not read New York’s prostitution laws, or they are making these objections in bad faith. Trans women of color have been uniquely targeted by this antiquated law, and I commend the leaders who championed this law so tirelessly,” said Nassau County District Attorney Madeline Singas.

Westchester County District Attorney

“Identifying potential law breakers by the way they look or the clothes they wear, rather than based on their actions, is the exact opposite of the way our justice system is supposed to work. That’s why I strongly support the immediate repeal of New York State’s ‘loitering for the purpose of engaging in a prostitution offense’ law. This statute is better known as the ‘walking while trans’ ban, because it has been widely used to target trans individuals, especially trans women of color. Using a law like this to single out specific individuals in our community does long-lasting harm not just to those who are targeted but also to the community at large, by feeding the perception that the entire justice system is biased and unfair.

“That is why I am proud to join the Repeal #WalkingWhileTrans Ban coalition and other advocates as well as fellow members of the District Attorneys Association of New York State to support the leadership efforts of Senate Majority Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins and Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie; repeal legislation sponsors Senator Brad Hoylman and Assemblymember Amy Paulin; and co-sponsors including Senators Jamaal Bailey, Alessandra Biaggi, Pete Harckham, Shelley Mayer and Elijah Reichlin-Melnick and Assemblymembers Thomas Abinanti, Chris Burdick, Sandy Galef, Steven Otis, J. Gary Pretlow and Nader Sayegh.” Westchester County DA Miriam E. Rocah

Legal Aid Society

“New York State is only a pen stroke away from finally relegating this biased law to the history books, one that has stigmatized and dehumanized Black and Brown TGNC individuals, sex-trafficking victims, and sex workers for over 40 years,” said Tina Luongo, Attorney-in-Charge of the Criminal Defense Practice at The Legal Aid Society. “The Legislature has done its part, and now Governor Cuomo must keep the promises that he has made on this issue and enact this legislation into law at once. Both the repeal and sealing provisions are critical to remedy past harms and necessary to ensure that race and gender presentation are not further criminalized.” 

National Organization for Women of New York

“I am so glad that the Assembly is finally striking this archaic and vague law from the penal code to prevent trans people, women and any other New Yorker from being profiled simply for how they are dressed, how they identify or where they stand," said Sonia Ossorio, President of the National Organization for Women of New York. "Amy Paulin has led this charge and her steadfast advocacy to end this abusive practice and right this wrong is a testament to skill as a legislator and her commitment to human rights." 

New York Anti-Trafficking Network

“The New York Anti-Trafficking Network (NYATN) unequivocally supports repealing the loitering for prostitution law, and is proud to see the Assembly passing this bill today. In its four decades on the books, the loitering law has proven problematic and harmful, particularly with respect to the vulnerable populations with which NYATN works. Repeal of this section will protect people at risk for trafficking, exploitation and abuse and would send a strong signal that their rights are valued. There is no controversy over repeal. Anti-trafficking and anti-violence groups across New York State, the country and the world agree that the very existence of this law, and its history of enforcement, further marginalizes those most vulnerable to exploitation and abuse,” Leigh Latimer, NYATN Steering Committee member

Bronx Defenders

"We applaud the Assembly's passage of A3355, which will repeal New York's 'Walking While Trans' law," said Deborah Lolai, Supervising Attorney in the LGBTQ Defense Project at The Bronx Defenders. "This bill is a critical step toward eliminating enmeshed penalties -- such as reduced access to employment, fewer housing options, and punitive immigration consequences -- for transgender people, and in particular transgender women of color, who have been profiled and criminalized for simply existing in a world that feels threatened by their presence. The Legislature has acted, and we now call on Governor Cuomo to sign the repeal immediately."

Brooklyn Defender Services

“We applaud the state legislature for at long last voting to repeal the Walking While Trans ban. Since its enactment, this statute has disproportionately been used to arrest Black and Latinx transgender and cisgender women and LGBTQ people for simply existing,” said Jillian Modzeleski, Senior Trial Attorney in the Women’s Defense Project at Brooklyn Defender Services. “The police use it as a pretext to stop and frisk people simply for standing on the sidewalk, hailing a cab, or going to and returning from work. Enforcement of the law, if not the law itself, is patently sexist, racist, and transphobic. Repealing NYPL 240.37 is a racial justice issue and a gender justice issue. This bill importantly allows people who have been criminalized under this archaic law to have their records sealed, allowing people to finally move forward without being unfairly burdened with the numerous employment and immigration consequences that violations bring. We thank the trans leaders and advocates who made this a reality, as well as legislative champions Senator Brad Hoylman and Assembly Member Amy Paulin, and we urge the Governor to urgently sign this bill to end this gender-based stop-and-frisk.”

Sanctuary for Families

“Sanctuary for Families, a leader in combating sex trafficking and all forms of commercial sexual exploitation in New York State, strongly supports the Assembly legislation to eliminate the section of the New York State Penal Code that criminalizes loitering for the purpose of prostitution. Eliminating this problematic law does not weaken in any respect our State’s strong anti-trafficking laws, which Sanctuary has successfully advocated for and works to implement. Instead it prevents the targeting for arrest of vulnerable people, typically young women of color and members of the LGBTQ community, on the basis of their appearance or to meet an arrest quota. Rather than strengthening law enforcement response to trafficking and commercial sexual exploitation this misguided law undermines it by intensifying mistrust of law enforcement by high risk communities and the victims in them who need police protection and assistance,” said Dorchen A. Leidholdt, Director, Center for Battered Women’s Legal Services, Sanctuary for Families

New York City Bar Association

"The New York City Bar Association is proud to finally see the repeal of New York Penal Law § 240.37. The law, which has faced opposition from its inception in 1976, is vague and overbroad, while police enforcement lacks clear guidance. This repeal will advance a more equitable New York by reducing the incidence of unwarranted police action against marginalized communities, in particular, women of color, both cisgender and transgender, and immigrant women.” Geoffrey L. Wertime, Co-Chair of the New York City Bar Association Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, and Queer Rights Committee

SOAR Institute

“This passage of the Walking While Trans ban repeal is critical for two reasons. The first is that the law criminalizes intent, rather than conduct. Second, the law is implemented in an incredibly discriminatory manner. Individuals are arrested not for what they are doing, but for who and where they are. We know that Black and Latinx women, especially transgender women and people in economically disadvantaged districts, are overwhelmingly targeted. As an attorney in NYC, I have represented dozens of translatina women in Queens who feared leaving their apartments due to being falsely arrested for loitering. This law does not protect us; rather, it discriminates against those who are the most marginalized.” SOAR Institute Co-Director Melissa Brouda, J.D., MPH.

Safe Horizon

“Safe Horizon applauds the Assembly and the legislature for passing the Walking While Trans ban repeal, which finally repeals the statute criminalizing loitering for the purposes of prostitution. This statute has been improperly used to perpetuate discriminatory intent against primarily women of color, particularly immigrant and transgender women, and hinder their access to social services. The statute's existence has not increased safety for New Yorkers, but instead targeted those most vulnerable, and must be repealed immediately. To be clear, this legislation only concerns loitering activity, and does not reach the act of prostitution itself. We thank Assembly Member Paulin and Senator Hoylman for tirelessly championing repeal of this harmful and discriminatory statute.” Safe Horizon Anti-Trafficking Program Senior Director Anita S. Teekah, Esq.

Planned Parenthood Empire State Acts

"There is no place for laws that enable harassment, profiling, and/or violence from police against anyone in our communities. I applaud the Assembly for repealing the #WalkingWhileTrans ban, a discriminatory law that has enabled police to target communities of color and subject women and transgender or nonconforming people to unjust profiling and arrest,” said Planned Parenthood Empire State Acts President/CEO Robin Chappelle Golston. “For decades, this law has operated as a thinly veiled excuse for identity-based policing. It is past time for New York to repeal the #WalkingWhileTrans ban to protect the liberties of LGBTQ+ and TGNC people.” Robin Chappelle Golston, President/CEO Planned Parenthood Empire State Acts


"The passage of the repeal of the Walking While Trans ban is so important to our communities. Since 1976, law enforcement has used this constitutionally dubious statute to target Black and Brown cisgender and transgender women for merely having the audacity to exist in public spaces. As a result, thousands of New Yorkers are irreparably harmed by records which impact their ability to access housing, education, and employment. The Walking While Trans ban is one of the most nefarious stop-and-frisk laws for women of color, and I am proud that New York is finally repealing it,” said NYCLU deputy policy director Erika Lorshbough.

New York State Coalition Against Domestic Violence

“This repeal of loitering for the purpose of engaging prostitution, which has disproportionately impacted transgender women of color, is a huge step forward for New York. The Walking While Trans ban is an example of how racism, oppression and discrimination are embedded in our institutions and in our systems. It also demonstrates why more people of color are arrested and incarcerated, and why more people of color are reluctant to call law enforcement for help. NYSCADV is committed to working together with survivors, allies, and partners to change the systems of oppression that enable all forms of violence to occur. Repealing this law is one step in the right direction.” Connie Neal, Executive Director, New York State Coalition Against Domestic Violence

Lambda Legal

“Lambda Legal, the oldest and largest national legal organization whose mission is to achieve full recognition of the civil rights of LGBTQ people and everyone living with HIV, applauds the passage of the bill to repeal P.L. § 240.37, the Walking While Trans ban. This bill would remove an overbroad and vague law which is used to target and criminalize marginalized women – specifically and disproportionately transgender women of color.” Richard Saenz, Senior Attorney, Criminal Justice & Police Misconduct Strategist, Lambda Legal

Make the Road

“For more than 40 years, Black and brown transgender woman like me have been harassed, profiled, and arrested for expressing our gender identity in public. I am thrilled to hear that the state legislature will make history and repeal the Walking While Trans Ban. The “loitering with the intent for prostitution” (P.L. §240.37) statute is sexist, racist and transphobic. Once, my boyfriend and I were arrested under the penal code 240.37 for simply walking together and holding hands, and until this day I still carry the scars and fears of the interaction with the police and the unjust arrest. But today I am excited that we will be able to provide protection to future generations of transgender women, reduce the interactions with police and violence against trans women of color.” Norma Ureiro, Make the Road New York

NYC Council Member Rosenthal

"The repeal of NY Penal Law Section 240.37 is a historic opportunity to push back against the systemic violence perpetrated on the TGNC/NB community. This racist law has been used to target trans women, especially trans women of color, in New York City for over four decades. It has criminalized cis and trans women, runaway and homeless LGBTQ+ youth, and immigrants, with far-reaching impacts on housing, employment, parental rights, and daily life. I thank State Senator Brad Hoylman, Assembly Member Amy Paulin, and all the activists who have steadfastly fought for Section 240.37's repeal," said New York City Council Member Helen Rosenthal (Manhattan, District 6).

Human Rights Campaign

"New Yorkers have been fighting for years to end what has become stop-and-frisk for transgender women of color, and the Walking While Trans ban enabled the profiling and arrest of transgender New Yorkers for doing nothing more than standing or walking on the street." said Human Rights Campaign President Alphonso David. "Today, we mark another step forward for equality in New York with the State Legislature's repeal of the ban. Governor Cuomo, Majority Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins, Speaker Carl Heastie, and bill sponsors Senator Brad Hoylman and Assembly Member Amy Paulin heard our community's call for change and made this important issue an early focus of this legislative session. We thank grassroots advocates, led by the Repeal Walking While Trans coalition, for their strong advocacy on this bill and we look forward to the day when the repeal takes effect."

hearthealthAccording to the American Heart Association, heart disease is the No. 1 killer of women in the United States. “We tend to think of heart disease as a mostly male problem,” explains Dr. Smriti Deshmukh, a cardiologist at White Plains Hospital. “As a result, women who might be experiencing signs of a heart attack often don’t seek immediate care.”

In fact, it is common for women to wait more than six hours after that first symptom before going to the emergency department, according to the AHA.

What are the signs of a heart attack in women?

Women are tough! Between family and career obligations, they are used to pushing through random discomfort and seemingly common ailments like acid reflux or the flu to get the job done. This is perhaps one reason why many women delay getting to the emergency department in time to prevent damage to their hearts. While chest pain is still the primary symptom of heart attack in women, the sensation will often feel more like tightness or weakness compared to the sudden onset of crushing pain often dramatized in movies. Surprisingly, chest pain is absent in 43% of women having heart attack.

Other symptoms include:

• Discomfort in neck, jaw or shoulder
• Stomach issues
• Back discomfort or pain
• Pain in one or both arms
• Nausea, vomiting
• Feeling tired, light-headed or dizzy

Get ScreenedWhitePlainsHospitalSponsorBanner

Women are generally much better about taking care of their health needs and getting proper screenings then men, which is why it’s ironic that they fall behind when it comes to heart disease. According to the AHA, almost two-thirds (64%) of women who die suddenly from coronary heart disease had no warning signs. “In past ten years, there has been tremendous advancement in the technology used to diagnose heart issues,” notes Dr. Deshmukh. Echocardiology has become the backbone of cardiovascular workups, using sound waves to create pristine 3D images of your heart muscle and valves, she adds.

Lower Your Risk

Dr. Deshmukh suggests annual checkups with a physician every year staring at age 40 or sooner if you have a family history of heart disease. This includes checking blood pressure and blood work to screen for diabetes and other issues that may be raising a red flag on your cardiovascular health.

Should that happen, take heart: 80% of cardiac events can be prevented through lifestyle changes, say the experts. Having a healthy heart means cutting out some bad habits and adopting a few other good ones.

Dr. Deshmukh says overall weight loss is definitely one of those goals, but not the primary one. “I focus more on physical activity with my patients,” she says. “Once they get that endorphin release of being more active, they automatically adjust their diet to complement increased physical activity. That mood elevation from exercise motivates you to make better choices with food.”

Her advice:

Keep moving. According to AHA guidelines, we should all be striving for 150 minutes of aerobic exercise every week, she says. That breaks down to about 30 minutes, 5 days a week, but no gym membership is required. Activities like gentle walking and yard work count, too. “It’s important to remember to keep moving throughout the day,” says Dr. Deshmukh. “Take the stairs instead of the elevator. Park your car as far as you can, because that spot will always be open.”

Quit smoking. Doing so cuts your risk of coronary heart disease in half! (In addition, a recent study showed it’s never too late to quit, since healthy remaining cells in the lungs can help to rebuild some of the damage to the lining and reduce cancer risk.) Speaking of which…

Sitting is the new smoking! Having a sedentary lifestyle is considered to be extremely dangerous to your overall health. “Set a timer on your phone or watch so every hour you’re up and moving,” says Dr. Deshmukh. “All of it really Deshmukh SmritiDr. Smriti H. Desmukhadds up, and eventually it will become habit.”

Eat natural, whole foods. The Mediterranean style diet is one of the most highly recommended diets for a strong and vital heart. Known for its healthy fats, this diet includes lots of nuts, vegetables, whole grains, lean protein and fish (with high amounts of omega-3s).

While it’s frightening to know that someone dies of a heart attack every 43 seconds, this statistic can be reversed. Know the symptoms of heart disease, get screened, and practice prevention.

Dr. Smriti H. Deshmukh, MD, FACC, is a cardiologist and echocardiologist with White Plains Hospital Physician Associates, seeing patients at 33 Davis Avenue and 2 Longview Avenue, Suite 500, in White Plains. For information or to make an appointment, call (914) 849-7105.

questionmarkMany patients in our area have received letters from both United Healthcare and the Montefiore Health system (that includes White Plains Hospital) about their failure to reach an agreement for 2021. As a result, all Montefiore hospitals and physicians are out of network as of January 1, 2021 for employer-sponsored and individual plans, including Oxford, as well as their Medicaid plan, effective Jan. 1, 2021. But consistent with state regulations, members enrolled in fully insured commercial plans and United’s Medicaid plan will continue to have in-network access to Montefiore’s hospitals through Feb. 28, 2021.


United claims that Montefiore is the city’s most expensive health system and they are demanding a 30% price hike over the next three years. In addition hospital reimbursement rates at Moses and Einstein campuses are higher than any other hospitals in the state. The insurer says, “The demand to increase Montefiore’s already high rates is unreasonable at a time when so many people and employers are struggling and would lead to higher premiums and out of pocket costs.” They say that these rates would require United to pay fees that are five times Medicare reimbursement rates. As Montefiore received more than $1 billion in federal aid during the pandemic United argues these funds should be used to reduce fees for patients.

montefiore moses einstein campuses infographicUnited Healthcare claims that Montefiore rates are too high.

For its part Montefiore claimed they negotiated in good faith and that “data shows that their reimbursement rates are at or slightly below the average for the top 5 hospitals in the country and comparable academic teaching hospitals in New York…. Montefiore is only asking for reasonable single digit annual increases that are consistent with the rates we receive from every other major insurance company.”

We reached to Lara Markenson, the Director of Public Relations for Montefiore and here are her responses to our questions:

Do you think that Montefiore and United will ultimately reach an agreement?

Our goal is to reach a fair resolution that restores in-network access and prevents further patient disruption. Montefiore had negotiated in good faith since the beginning of July, though United offered little progress, stalled negotiations since November 19, and has refused to respond in good faith to our latest proposal.

Unfortunately, United continues to misrepresent negotiations. Since the beginning, Montefiore has only asked for reasonable single digit annual increases that are consistent with the rates we receive from every other major insurance company.

For patients that are currently insured by United and Oxford, will you take their insurance until February 28?

All Montefiore Physicians are out of network which means patients will not be covered at in-network rates.

Certain patients, including those who are hospitalized, pregnant or undergoing an active course of treatment prior to the contract end date may qualify for Continuity of Care through United that would extend your in-network benefits. If you think you may qualify, you should call the phone number on the back of your United health insurance card today to request a Continuity of Care form and apply.

Patients with United Medicare DSNP Community Plans will continue to have in-network access to all Montefiore hospitals and doctors until midnight March 31, 2021.

Patients with United Medicaid Community Plans and United/Oxford Fully Insured Commercial Plans will continue to have in-network access to Montefiore hospitals until midnight March 1, 2021.

Patients with Medicaid can call NYS DOH and ask to change plans to ones that have in-network access to Montefiore doctors and hospitals.

Patients always have in-network access to our emergency rooms, regardless of our status with United. If you experience an emergency, you should always visit the nearest emergency room. Patients needing emergency care are entitled to receive in-network treatment until the patient is stable.

Why do you think this has come to an impasse this year?

Montefiore had negotiated in good faith since the beginning of July, though United offered little progress and stalled negotiations since November 19, refusing to respond to our latest proposal in good faith.

In the final hours of our contract on New Year’s Eve, without even considering our proposal, United asked for an extension that only would have prolonged uncertainty until a time when our communities’ employers and residents would have missed an opportunity to switch to other health plans that would restore in-network access to Montefiore. Once again, Montefiore offered to negotiate in good faith to reach an agreement to prevent disruption of healthcare services, however United declined our offer. We are disappointed by United’s decision to block 60,000 patients from seeing their trusted Montefiore doctors and hospitals while the pandemic continues to surge.

How is Montefiore responding to the insurer’s charge that the hospitals are billing more than other systems in the area?

Rand Corporation data shows that our reimbursement rates are at or slightly below the average for the top 5 hospitals in the country and comparable academic teaching hospitals in New York. Montefiore is only asking for reasonable single digit annual increases that are consistent with the rates we receive from every other major insurance company. Also, despite United's claim that Montefiore received $1 billion, Montefiore actually received $769 million in cares act grant. This was all used for patient care during the COVID pandemic across our 10 hospitals.

If you are not able to reach an agreement, what will patients in our area do?

Patients should look to change their insurance plan if they can or ask their employer to make a change or offer additional health plan options so they can continue to see the Montefiore doctors and use the Montefiore hospitals they know and trust.

Commenting on the problem, Scarsdale resident Judy Hochberg said, ""This dispute affects me and my husband since we regularly see doctors at Scarsdale Medical Group and White Plains Hospital. We are switching back to another insurance plan that costs more but has all of our physicians. Just a few years ago we had to change doctors within SMG because of a contract disagreement with Empire Blue Cross / Blue Shield. These two events are symptomatic of larger problems in our dysfunctional healthcare system, which fails to provide confidence and continuity of care even to consumers who can afford private insurance."

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