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United Helpers subsidiary changes name, not aim

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OGDENSBURG — United Helpers is a conscientious chameleon of sorts, but instead of changing hues, it adds services to meet the needs of St. Lawrence County communities.

When the state approached the company in the 1980s about operating an intermediate care facility for developmentally disabled county residents, the company created United Helpers Care Inc., now called Mosaic.

“We had a long-standing history in the community for providing services to seniors,” United Helpers spokeswoman Cinnamon M. Alberto said. “The state asked us if we would provide homes for people with developmental disabilities.”

The state’s request came during a trend of downsizing, consolidation and closure among large developmental centers downstate, said Michele M. Montroy, Mosaic administrator.

“Our clientele is changing, which changes the way we provide the service, but we are still here as a resource for the people in the county,” she said.

Mosaic started with one facility serving 12 patients in the city, but has grown in response to local needs to become the largest of United Helper’s six subsidiaries.

“Mosaic is spread out all over the place. I don’t think people tend to realize that this is the biggest part of the United Helpers organization,” Ms. Montroy said. “We serve around 450 patients.”

The organization now operates six intermediate care facilities throughout the county, in Morristown, Rensselaer Falls, Heuvelton, Ogdensburg and Lisbon, employing 300 north country residents.

“If you know the history of the St. Lawrence Psychiatric Center, you’ll know immediately that there is a huge need for the care of the developmentally disabled and mentally ill locally,” Ms. Montroy said. “The hospitals have downsized to the point that the communities need to serve the need. The outpatient clinics have waiting lists. Some people wait two to three months. There are people with children who are developmentally disabled who are looking for options as their children age out of school, and we have adjusted to meet that need.”

Intermediate care facilities provide services for those who require constant nursing, but not at the level of a hospital, and for those who require assistance with activities of daily living. Mosaic’s facilities also care for patients with traumatic brain injuries and chronic mental illness.

In October, the company began a new pediatric therapy program, Stepping Stones, in response to a paucity of services for developmentally disabled children throughout the county.

“We serve children ages 3 to 5 years old who need help with speech, physical therapy and occupational therapy before entering school,” Ms. Montroy said. “It is kind of a return to the company’s roots — the program is actually housed where our first intermediate care facility was.”

Ms. Montroy said there were only two other programs providing similar services in the county.

Mosaic also operates in smaller settings called Individualized Residential Alternatives, homes with five or six adults supported by staff members, Ms. Alberto said.

The subsidiary offers a day habilitation program, Ms. Montroy said.

“It is like an alternative to work for people with developmental disabilities,” she said. “They go there during the day and are involved in community projects. We go to two Meals on Wheels sites and help package the food, we help deliver the meals, we do work with the SPCA, we do work with the local churches, we make bookmarks for the library, we adopted a highway and clean it once a month. There are all sorts of things we do to integrate them into the community.”

Each day, Mosaic employees spread throughout the county as part of the company’s case management efforts, Ms. Alberto said.

“There are members of the mental health team all over the county on any given day, from one end to another,” she said. “Mosaic is unique because it can’t be identified with any specific campus, like RiverLedge in Ogdensburg or Maplewood in Canton.”

While the company does not now plan any further changes or growth to Mosaic, that could change at any moment, Ms. Montroy said.

“Just like any other United Helpers service, we respond to the needs of the community,” she said. “If something comes about that is an identified need that we don’t have in St. Lawrence County, you are probably going to see us involved.”

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