Barbara Faron, CEO, recently celebrated her 40th anniversary at Federation! When Ms. Faron joined Federation in the late 1970s, it had one office and a handful of employees. The organization was founded in 1972 by an alliance of family advocacy groups and originally focused on supporting the needs of individuals with mental illness.
“The 1970s was a time of transition,” Ms. Faron said. “The treatment for mental illness before that point had been to lock patients up and throw away the key. But with the advent of psychotropic drugs, which allowed their condition to become stabilized, many people were released from hospitals, and there were few resources available to them in the community.”
Federation ran several programs to support this sector, and around the time that Ms. Faron joined, the organization began to broaden its mission to serve additional vulnerable groups, beginning with seniors. Ms. Faron began her career with Federation as a direct service worker in the Foster Grandparent program, a national program in which Federation became a sponsoring agency and continues to be to this day. In the program, low-income seniors volunteer in schools and daycare centers serving at-risk children.
“The volunteer’s role is to work one on one with students who need help focusing on the material,” Ms. Faron said. “The seniors receive a modest stipend and the role brings additional meaning and purpose to their lives. The teachers are happy to see them, the kids love them, and they meet fellow senior volunteers with whom they can create a social network.”
Ms. Faron’s next role was to launch the Senior Companion program. In this program, individuals with long-term psychiatric histories, many of whom lived in group homes, were recruited and trained to pay social visits to elderly people.
“It was an incredible success,” Ms. Faron said, calling both the Foster Grandparent and Senior Companion programs “strength-based” programs in that they look at people from the point of view of their strengths to provide the support they need to lead satisfying lives and be valued participants in the community.
“From then on, we have used the basic premise of the strength-based perspective to develop all of our programs,” said Ms. Faron, who was promoted to CEO in 1986 and has been a catalyst for positive change, guiding Federation to grow and adapt to an ever-changing healthcare system.
“Now, healthcare is at another juncture in which we are rethinking how we provide care in that behavioral health is being integrated into primary care,” Ms. Faron said. “Mental health has a very big impact on physical health – they are not separate – and there is a movement to integrate behavioral and physical health.”
There is also a major focus in the healthcare system on value-based care, Ms. Faron said. “The right combination of treatment and support required for individuals is being looked at in terms of how to do it at the right price point, with the goal of saving money while improving outcomes,” she said.
“It’s always a challenge to figure out what will happen next in this ever-changing field,” Ms. Faron said. “We are always thinking about what our next step will be in this new world, and how we will integrate our knowledge and experience in the latest iteration.”
Reflecting on her 40 years with the organization and how far it has come, Ms. Faron said, “I am incredibly grateful. We have a great team, and for that I am most appreciative – our management team and all of our staff and direct-care workers are out there every day making it happen.”
Ms. Faron enjoys receiving feedback from people that federation has served. “We have a luncheon for senior volunteers, and I remember one woman in particular who came up to me and said, ‘Thank you for letting me volunteer,’” Ms. Faron recalled. “She told me that since her husband had died, she had been sitting watching TV all day and feeling isolated, and somehow she heard about the Foster Grandparent program and it changed her whole life – that her life had meaning and purpose again.”
Ms. Faron is a Licensed Master Social Worker and a Certified Psychiatric Rehabilitation Practitioner. She holds a Master’s Degree in social work from the Stony Brook University School of Social Welfare and has extensive experience in criminal justice, community organizing, aging and mental health. Her memberships include the National Association of Social Workers and the National Alliance for the Mentally Ill. In 2000, she received the second annual “People in Recovery Choice Award” from the Mental Health Association of Suffolk County. Other achievements include: the 2004 Distinguished Alumni Award from the Stony Brook University School of Social Welfare and the 2008 Town of Brookhaven Outstanding Community Service Professionals award. More recently, Ms. Faron was recognized as a Top Female CEO by the Smart CEO Brava Awards, a Top CEO from Long Island Business News, and a Future 50 Award winner for Fastest Growing Company, all in 2016.