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A helping hand is just a phone call away

New York Teacher
Helping hand

Don’t be afraid to ask for help.

That’s the message to retirees from Chris Chin, the director of UFT Welfare Fund Retiree Social Services, which offers members regular check-ins by phone, help navigating hospital and rehabilitation stays, and information and referrals, among other services. The services are free and confidential.

“We don’t know if you need help unless you give us a call,” Chin said. “We can help you with whatever issue you’re going through, and we’re here to support you as a retiree.”

In 2023, Chin and his staff made or received more than 6,500 phone calls to and from UFT retirees across the country.

Many of those calls were part of the Nationwide Telephone Reassurance Program, said Chin. Chin and two other geriatric social workers call about 100 people each week for a friendly chat that is supportive in nature but not therapy. The member may be dealing with a recent loss, living alone, experiencing depression or feeling stress associated with being a caregiver for a spouse or elderly parent, he said.

“You can reach out to us, and we can discuss your situation,” said Chin.

The calls can be for as long as the retiree would like.

“People are appreciative that someone from the union is reaching out to them to make sure they’re OK,” he said.

People are, in varying degrees, social by nature, said Tom Murphy, the Retired Teachers Chapter leader. “When our interactions falter, we look for healing connections that Chris and his team offer so well,” he said. “That is union member engagement at its best.”

Another large portion of the calls in 2023 were related to the union’s Nationwide Hospital Stay in Touch Program, Chin said.

If UFT retirees or their family members are in the hospital, the social workers of UFT Welfare Fund Retiree Social Services can contact the retiree or a family member daily to see how they are doing, answer any questions, reach out to hospital social workers, advocate for members and ensure they have a safe discharge plan and home care, if needed. They follow patients throughout their hospital stay and rehabilitation, and they check on them after they return home.

UFT Welfare Fund Retiree Social Services also provides callers with information, such as answers about benefits or help with referrals to bereavement and support groups, a long-term therapist, Meals on Wheels or other services. The department can also furnish UFT retirees and their family members with information about what to look for in a nursing home or assisted-living facility, how to apply, how the admissions process works and what to expect after admission.

Retirees with questions about the UFT Welfare Fund’s Retiree Legal Plan with Elder Law Supplement can call UFT Welfare Fund Retiree Social Services for assistance.

To reach the office, call 212-598-6880 between 10 a.m. and 6 p.m. on weekdays.

Related Topics: Retired Teachers