Assembly Member Lentol Announces COVID19 Compassionate Helper Volunteer Program

Assembly Member Joseph R. Lentol (D-North Brooklyn) today announced the proposal of the COVID19 Compassionate Helper Volunteer Program, which aims to pair volunteers with hospitalized COVID19 patients. The COVID19 pandemic has turned the lives of many families upside down. Reports of families unable to spend time with family members who are hospitalized with COVID19 are tragic and have further compounded the pain and suffering families have to endure. Healthcare workers are doing incredible work to keep New Yorkers safe while also stepping into the role of family members for patients who are hospitalized with COVID19.

This is why Assembly Member Lentol, joined by 37 colleagues in New York State and City government, proposes a new COVID19 Compassionate Helper Volunteer Program to utilize volunteers to help connect families with their loved ones who are hospitalized with COVID19. This program would identify individuals who have recovered from COVID19, possess the antibodies, and wish to volunteer with hospitalized COVID19 patients.

“The reality of having a member of your family hospitalized with COVID19 is horrifying and heartbreaking. This pain is multiplied as families are unable to visit with their hospitalized family member, which is unbearable, especially if the patient is dying. As we progress through the COVID19 pandemic, we must find ways to ease the suffering of families while their loved ones are hospitalized. The COVID19 Compassionate Helper Volunteer Program will go a long way to ease the pain and suffering of families due to separation,” said Assembly Member Lentol.

The COVID19 Compassionate Helper Volunteer Program calls for the following measures:

  • New York State and New York City Departments of Health would execute an immediate testing program focused on volunteers seeking to be Compassionate Helpers. This test would verify COVID19 antibodies have developed in recovered individuals who wish to volunteer.
  • Compassionate Helpers would aid in non-medical, quality of life activities to ease a patient’s and their family’s fears due to separation. Participants would volunteer to sit with patients, help overcome language barriers for New York’s Immigrant Communities, and communicate with families and provide relief to our overwhelmed hospital staff.
  • A Compassionate Helper can be a family member as long as they have met the criteria of having COVID19 antibodies.
  • Compassionate Helpers can also assist the patient with cell phone or iPad contact with families or friends so there is direct interaction during times of greatest need. If a patient is not able to communicate, the Helper will inform the families on non-medical, quality-of-life matters.
  • Hospitals would have control over who is accepted as a Compassionate Helper and would have the ability to terminate any individual who is not working in the best interest of the patient and the families involved.

“Compassionate Helpers can ease a small portion of the demands placed on health care workers by sitting with patients and doing the extra work of care that is impossible for health care workers to attend to right now,” said Assembly Member Lentol. “The activities can be as simple as reading or playing soft music, assisting with feeding, wetting a person’s lips, or just sitting quietly offering an encouraging presence to the patient. These are simple acts that help ease stress during this treacherous illness.”

"Assembly Member Lentol has put together a sensible and compassionate proposal," said Assembly Health Committee Chair Richard N. Gottfried, who has joined in the letter and is co-sponsoring the bill.

“New York needs the Compassionate Helper Volunteer Program. Health care workers in our state are overwhelmed with emergency cases but no one should have to die alone, especially those who are unable to communicate due to a language barrier. New Yorkers facing the end of life deserve compassionate care," said Assistant Speaker Félix W. Ortiz.

“The Compassionate Helper Volunteer Program is an important initiative that will ease the worries of families and help overburdened members of the health care system, all the while serving to assist patients who are without someone by their side to boost their spirits and advocate for their needs during this critical moment in their lives," said Assemblyman Steven Cymbrowitz (D-Brooklyn). "It's both a humane and common-sense piece of legislation with enormous benefit to New Yorkers."

“Since the start of this COVID-19 crisis, people have been dying alone in the hospital without their family” said Assembly Member Simcha Eichenstein. “The problem does not begin at the time of death - family members have been left in the dark as to the medical conditions of their loved ones, with no contact and no communication from hospitals. We need to end this cycle of emotional pain during such times of physical pain."

“We will get through this pandemic if we work together. With everyone separated, this makes it easier to match those who want to help with those who need help,” said Assembly Member Tom Abinanti.