A MESSAGE FROM OUR FOUNDER DR. ROSA GIL
In 1989 when we started Comunilife, we knew that to truly help New York City’s Latino community we had provide services that incorporated the culture and the language of our clients. We quickly learned that many of the issues facing at-risk residents started with the inability to maintain safe and affordable housing. This was decades before the buzz words “housing is a social determinant of health” and “health disparities” entered everyday vernacular.
These have been Comunilife’s guiding principals for 31 years and are reflected in our mission to provide vulnerable communities with housing and culturally sensitive supportive services. That without a permanent place to live it is impossible to overcome the health and social issues that plague our community. We believe that no one should be without the housing and supports they need to lead a healthy, meaningful life.
My more than 50 years of experience in housing, health care and many levels of government and the extensive experience of Comunilife’s staff has enabled us to anticipate community needs. This is evident in the scope of services that Comunilife provides.
Our transitional and permanent housing programs for homeless adults living with mental illness, HIV/AIDS and other chronic illnesses provide the supports our tenants require to secure or remain in permanent housing; reduce emergency room presentations and hospitalizations and improve their health outcomes; and develop the skills they require to become active members of the community. This is most evident in our 89 unit Woodhull Residence, which was built on vacant land on the Brooklyn’s Woodhull Medical Center campus and opened in February 2019. The building’s tenants are former patients at Woodhull Hospital and other NYC H+H medical centers and all are living with chronic illnesses. Through on-going case conferencing, program and hospital staff work with the tenants to ensure that medical appointments are kept and medications are taken which result in improved health and lower health care costs.
The high cost of health care has a negative effect on all segments of our society. Our Medical Respite Program contracts with hospitals and managed care companies to provide short term housing for homeless or unstably housed patients who are medically cleared for discharge but do not have a home in which to recuperate. While in our Medical Respite Program the patients complete their recuperation while receiving the assistance necessary to secure permanent housing.
No where is Comunilife’s commitment to meeting unmet community needs more evident than in our innovative Life is Precious™ (LIP) program which provides suicide prevention services for at-risk Latina teens. Although suicide is the second leading cause of death for Latina teens LIP is the only program of its kind in the country. According to a 2018 CDC report, 20.9% of Latina teens in New York City seriously considered and 13.1% attempted suicide Today, as when it was started in 2008, program activities are developed with input from the community and designed to meet the linguistic and cultural needs specific to the Hispanic community and today include academic support, expressive arts therapy, health/wellness services and family counseling. We know that LIP works and that not one of the more than 350 Latina teens who have participated in the program has completed suicide.
The outcomes that Comunilife has achieved would not be possible without the dedication of its Board of Directors and staff as well our government, foundation and corporate partners.
On behalf of the Comunilife family thank you for your support.
Rosa M. Gil, DSW
President and CEO
ABOUT OUR FOUNDER DR. ROSA GIL
Dr. Rosa M. Gil, Comunilife’s Founder, President and CEO, has had a distinguished career in New York City’s health, mental health, supportive housing, social service and higher education sectors. At Comunilife, which opened in 1989, she has developed more than 2,152 units of affordable and supportive housing for the City’s hardest to reach residents, the homeless, mentally ill, and people living with HIV/AIDS, and continues to develop new housing opportunities. Under her leadership, Comunilife started Life is Precious™, a nationally recognized program for Latina teens who have seriously considered or attempted suicide and opened Medical Respite Program, which is the only one of its kind in New York City.
Dr. Gil has been appointed to numerous Federal, State and City commissions and boards including Federal Reserve Bank of New York (Deputy Chair), The NYS Suicide Prevention Council, The Board of Health (NYC Department of Health and Mental Hygiene), NYS Governor’s Interagency Council on Homelessness, The Commission of Health Care Facilities in the 21st Century (The Berger Commission), and The Minority Women Panel on Health Experts (U.S. Public Health Services). Dr. Gil is a member of the President Carter Mental Health Task Force and the Board of Trustees of EmblemHealth.
In addition to her tenure at Comunilife, Dr. Gil was, among many positions, the Chairperson of the NYC Health and Hospital Corporation, Health Policy Advisor to the Mayor, Executive Director of Woodhull Medical Center and Metropolitan Hospital, Executive Deputy Commissioner for Families and Children Services at the NYC Human Resources Administration and the University Dean for Health Sciences at CUNY. She is one of the founders of the Urban Institute for Behavioral Health of New York City, Latino Commission on AIDS, the Association of Hispanic Mental Health Professionals and 100 Hispanic Women.