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Executive Suite: Karen Boorshtein, Huntington

Karen Boorshtein, of Hauppauge, president and chief executive

Karen Boorshtein, of Hauppauge, president and chief executive of the Family Service League, a Suffolk-based nonprofit human service agency, at the agency's Huntington headquarters on July 29, 2015. Credit: Heather Walsh

A Huntington nonprofit is helping companies find housing for their new hires in the pricey Long Island market. The Home Sharing program matches homeowners who have spare rooms with room seekers who have rental budgets of $500 or $600, says Family Service League president and CEO Karen Boorshtein, 62. Homeowners pay a fee that includes background checks.

The program gives renters "a way to be living without paying $1,600 for a one-bedroom apartment," she said. "I remember a company calling and saying, 'We have somebody relocating here from China.' " It also helps Long Island's senior citizens to stay in their homes, she said.

Family Service League offers programs for all ages, including mental health counseling, preschool, job training and services for the homeless, touching the lives of some 50,000 people a year, Boorshtein said. In 2011 the agency began collaborating with Southside Hospital in Bay Shore, a North Shore-LIJ affiliate, to provide integrated health care.

How do you match people in the Home Sharing program?

It can be anybody, any age. Basically it's like an interview process. A staff member goes over and speaks to the homeowner and does a live interview with the home seeker. And then they determine who may be a best match based upon a person's lifestyle preferences, habits, how they live. And then the homeowners and home seekers [interview each other], and they decide who they want to live with.

What's your advice to other agencies considering providing integrated health care?

To absolutely do it. The key is to find the right medical partner to work with you, because for us that has been the wonderful gift from Southside Hospital, North Shore-LIJ. Southside provides primary-care physicians on site at our Bay Shore office. The doctors who have worked with us have been wonderful in working with our clients. [Some of] our clients have severe mental illness, so you absolutely need the right practitioner. So look at all the options, get the right decision in place but definitely go forward with it because it's the right model of care.

What makes it right?

People with severe mental illness don't often go to their primary care doctors. They're so consumed by their . . . mental illness and taking care of that that they don't look to do preventive medicine [like annual physicals]. So they end up going, needlessly at times, to the emergency room for small problems that really could have been addressed by their primary care doctor. So what makes it better is getting their care -- their medical and mental health -- taken care of under one roof. The trust is there, the relationship is there.

How does the Huntington Interfaith Homeless Initiative work?

We have 40 different . . . [churches and synagogues] that work with us [housing the homeless] . . . Basically they're [the men are] looking just for a warm bed and some food, and we try to engage them where we can.

Anyone can come to you?

Yes, if they're in need of just a place to sleep, to shelter, they can contact us in Huntington to meet us and get registered for the program.

Tell me about your WorkPlus program?

It's for people who are looking to improve their work skills or get back in the job market: resumé preparation, how to dress, interviews, Microsoft to Excel to emails, spreadsheets -- anything that's needed for the workplace or offices. Because nowadays, no matter what job you go into, you need some basic computer skills.

You deal with many different populations. Do you see an underutilized opportunity for Long Island businesses?

Certainly hiring seniors . . . who retired from their "first career" and are now looking for something else. They make wonderful employees. Here, retired people who started to volunteer for Family Service League, working in major departments of the agency, have been hired by us. I think that's good business practice.


Corporate snapshot


Name: Karen Boorshtein, president and chief executive, Family Service League in Huntington

What it does: Provides services including mental health and family counseling, preschool, job training, housing assistance and help for the homeless.

Employees: 625, half full time and half part time

Budget: $31 million


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