• ‘Nurse Patty’ celebrates 25 years of service

    A lot has changed at SERV Behavioral Health System Inc. over the past three decades, yet some things have remained constant. One of them is the presence of Patricia Delgado, RN, BSN. Affectionately known as ‘’Nurse Patty” by consumers and her co-workers, Patricia has served as a Nursing Services Coordinator in SERV Centers for more than 25 years. Whether educating staff on prescription medication, fighting the healthcare bureaucracy, or advocating for consumers, she has proven time and time again to be a compassionate leader, and her commitment to our mission and those in our care has never wavered.

    Recently, Patricia celebrated a milestone anniversary, and we caught up with her to learn more about her time at SERV and what has kept her so passionate about her career for all these years.

    Q: When did you begin working at SERV? What attracted you to the organization?

    A: I started with SERV in 1995, at the beginning of May. Prior to that, I was working in a hospital in the area for 15 years. I remember, one of my co-workers at the hospital had left to pursue a career at SERV, and he highly recommended the organization to me. Also, a lot of the patients I was working with were in SERV programs, and I knew that if I went to SERV, I’d be able to establish better relationships with them and interact with them one-on-one in a more normal environment.

    Ultimately, it was about job satisfaction. I wasn’t getting a lot out of the hospital, and I wanted to do more than just paperwork. SERV offered me the opportunity to be more involved with consumers, advocate for them, and help them get the services they deserve.

    Q: What has changed in the time you’ve been at SERV? What has stayed the same?

    A: Where do I begin? So much has changed. We have really grown significantly as an organization. We have so many more group homes and apartments than we had when I started. We have also been able to expand into new areas and upgrade our facilities and programs. Because of all this, we have been able to help more consumers live independently, work, and go to school.

    What’s stayed the same are the mission, vision, and values. Even though we’ve gone through a lot of changes, we remain devoted to those we serve.

    Q: What are some of your fondest memories?

    A: What I truly love is helping people who were institutionalized for many years see that they can live in the community and lead fulfilling lives. I have so many memories of helping people realize their dreams and become the best versions of themselves. I’m grateful for the opportunity to be there and advocate for the consumers. For many consumers, we are home, and they look to us as family, even though staff maintain therapeutic boundaries. We know we have done and continue to do the best we can for the individuals in our care. In many instances, we have worked with consumers who have terminal illnesses and provided compassionate care for them up until their final days. The memories I’ve made with them—and all the consumers I’ve worked with—will stay with me forever.

    I also really enjoy the client conferences, holiday parties, and events we hold for consumers. We always look forward to these celebrations every year. One year, I remember, the consumers rented tuxes and limos to go to our event. They budgeted for it and everything. We’ve always had great Halloween parties, as well, with pumpkin carving contests and costume contests. It’s extremely rewarding to see everyone so happy and excited.

    If I were to call on one particular memory, it would have to be a sweet 16 birthday party we held for a resident. The resident had always wanted a sweet 16 party, but never got one, and we were able to make that dream happen for her when she was in her fifties. We made the party rock and roll theme, bought her clothes from the times, and decorated the house. We really went all out, and the consumer had an amazing time.

    Q: What is the best part of your job? What keeps you wanting to come to work every day?

    A: That’s easy. The residents! And the staff! My job is incredibly rewarding, and I’m happy to have made an impact on so many lives and met so many amazing people.

    Q: What are you looking forward to in the future?

    A: I would love to see us able to provide more services in a setting to meet the physical challenges of the aging population. I’m also excited to help more people and to see co-workers progress in their careers.

  • Business Transformation Services: SERV’s heroes behind the scenes

    March 16, 2020: That’s when it all started.

    With the global pandemic forcing the closure of many facilities, SERV’s Business Transformation Services (BTS) team sprang into action.

    First, they focused on facilitating work from home and other corporate pandemic measures. This included a massive build and rollout of laptops, as well as an expansion of VPN technology use and instructional activities.

    They were also tasked with reviewing and revising security priorities. Unfortunately, hackers love a crisis. So, the BTS team prepared to secure and privatize SERV’s new work environments in the face of threats.

    Adjusting to the new normal wasn’t easy. But SERV’s heroes behind the scenes worked tirelessly to ensure the transition went as smooth as possible.

    “We were instantly challenged after doing a COVID-19 impact analysis,” said Bob Donahue, Senior VP of BTS. “To keep pace with the pandemic, we accelerated our decision-making framework while maintaining alignment to our immediate corporate priorities and long-term goals.”

    According to Donahue, the BTS team needed a “course correction,” which called for a resequencing of project plans and tasks without disrupting SERV’s frontline workers.

    The correction involved working with vendors and project teams to establish new, innovative plans that shifted the workload toward more technical aspects that could be handled by the BTS team and non-direct caregivers.

    “We were asking employees for an extraordinary effort in this time of crisis,” Donahue said, “and they delivered.”

    SERV’s BTS team consists of Mark Bensel, Senior Systems Application Analyst; John Mellon, Senior Network Engineer; Yaqoob Yousafzai, Senior Desktop Engineer; Mike Keating, Desktop Support and Helpdesk Engineer; and Stacey Padovano, IT Project Coordinator.

    Right now, the team is working on several major business platform projects. Among them are a new phone system (8x8), a new requisitioning and accounts payable platform (SAP Concur), a migration to Quickbooks online and Raisers Edge/Blackbaud Fundraiser Software, and an implementation and buildout for Project Management Office and Netsmart Telehealth services.

    The team also remains focused on cyber security and plans to offer security awareness training for staff in the coming weeks.

  • NJACP honors SERV team member Michele Bradley during DSP Hero Awards

    On September 18, in honor of National DSP Recognition Week, the New Jersey Association of Community Providers (NJACP) hosted its first DSP Hero Awards event, wherein they spotlighted individuals who have gone above and beyond the call of duty in the face of the COVID-19 Pandemic.

    Among the heroes recognized was SERV team member Michele Bradley.

    Michele has been with SERV for more than a decade and has dedicated her life to our mission-driven work. She currently serves as supervisor of the SERV Achievement Centers’ day program in Mercer County.

    When nominating Michele for the NJACP DSP Hero Award, Evan Townsend, the Regional Director of SERV Achievement Centers, wrote, “Michele has gone above and beyond during the COVID-19 pandemic. She has taken the lead on supervising all of the Progressive Achievement Center staff members and has been covering two group homes.

    “Because of her commitment, her strong communication skills, and her fair leadership style, Michele earns the respect of everyone with whom she works. I always know that I can count on Michele to provide the very highest level of care, which allows me to focus on managing general operational concerns and e-learning efforts for PAC.”

    Michele is one of the many SERV DSPs who have demonstrated heroic levels of selflessness and compassion during this unprecedented time.

    Throughout the week, COO Bob Bacon, Director of Behavioral Support Kristina Escobar, and Regional Director Evan Townsend sent emails to team members in SERV Achievement, paying tribute to them and thanking them for their hard work and dedication. In Thursday’s email, they wrote, “As essential workers, you’ve been working on the front-lines of the COVID-19 pandemic, providing compassionate care to those who need it most.

    “From organizing barbeques to hosting arts and crafts and game nights, you have gone above and beyond to maintain a positive environment for consumers during this crisis. You are the heart of our organization, and the services you provide are making a real, lasting impact on the lives of countless individuals.

    "We cannot thank you enough for your tireless work and dedication. You are invaluable to our mission and organization, and we appreciate you more than we could ever express. You are our heroes!”

  • SERV employee speaks out against police brutality and systemic racism

    “No justice, no peace!”

    “Silence is violence!”

    “Black lives matter!”

    Over the past few weeks, these chants have reverberated across the nation, as droves of people emerge from self-isolation and flood the streets each day to protest the senseless killing of George Floyd—an unarmed, African-American man who died beneath the knee of a police officer in Minneapolis, Minnesota on May 25. 

    Protesters are not only calling for the end of police brutality, but also for real change when it comes to broader racial injustices African-Americans experience daily.

    Among those advocating for change is Francis Akintola, a 28-year-old Residential Counselor at SERV. 

    Born in Ibaban, Nigeria, Akintola immigrated to the United States in 1999, after his father won a Visa Lottery. Since then, he said, he has experienced first-hand “the rash of police brutality and systemic racism in our society.”

    “It’s no secret that the Black community is suffering,” Akintola said. “It’s sad that it took the death of George Floyd for this protest to happen, but I’m glad people are finally pushing for change and having these difficult conversations.

    “While we might not like to discuss racism, it’s a real issue that is affecting millions, and I’m encouraged to see so many people—people from all races and backgrounds—come together in solidarity to support this cause,” he added. 

    On Thursday, June 4, SERV released a statement against racism, violence, inequality, and discrimination. In it, the organization’s CEO, Regina Widdows, wrote, “We must remain committed to our mission and practice our core values daily. 

    “We must also continue to foster an environment that embraces diversity, growth, and cultural sensitivity—an environment where all people are seen and all voices are heard. Our identity is rooted in empowering everyone, and right now, it’s incumbent upon us to promote and support systemic change.”

    Widdows concluded her statement with a call-to-action. “The path forward begins with courageous conversation and unity,” she wrote. “With that in mind, I ask that you reach out to your team members this week to see how they are doing. I ask that you embrace all opinions, not just those that align with your own. I ask that you show compassion for those who are scared, suffering, or navigating unseen circumstances. And finally, I ask that you join me and everyone on the leadership team in continuing to advocate for real, lasting change.”

    Widdows’ statement resonated with Akintola, who said, “Right now, many people are struggling to find a way to voice their frustrations, and it’s uplifting to know we have the support of leadership. Her words truly were inspiring.”

    Akintola joined the SERV Team in December of 2019. He holds a Bachelor’s Degree in Sociology from William Paterson University. 

    In addition to his work at SERV, Akintola is a student at Rutgers University, where he is working towards a Master’s Degree in Social Work and serves as Co-Chair of the school’s Student Government.

    There are several different ways we can all protest peacefully, according to Akintola, who intends to continue using his voice and influence to shed light on the issues affecting people of color.

    “Whether it’s marching down the street, signing petitions, or posting on social media, there a number of ways we can all make an impact without resorting to rioting and violence,” he said. “We should all do our part to spread awareness, but we need to do it peacefully.”  

    Akintola and his classmates are planning to hold a social awareness event this summer, wherein they will discuss how to end systemic racism and prevent police brutality in New Jersey. During the event, they will offer local police officers a chance to express their opinions, as well.