15 Catholic Housing Communities go Smoke Free

(February 11, 2014, Lauderdale Lakes, FL) In the last decade, smoke-free multi-unit housing across the country has increased dramatically as a result of mounting data and awareness of the hazards and dangers of smoking and second hand smoke.

Since the summer of 2012, Juana Mejia, Director of Catholic Housing Management and her staff have been working diligently putting together a program that would turn our15 HUD subsidized communities for the low-income independent elderly into smoke free living environments. She worked with numerous tireless partners who helped her throughout the long and challenging road to smoke free. Among those partners was Matthew Competiello, program manager for the American Lung Association. Matthew helped organize a dynamic task force and put in place a plan that included tenant surveys, staff training, policy writing consultation, smoking cessation classes, announcements and acted as a valuable liaison between various agencies and other interested parties and advocates.

One of the first steps in the initiative was conducting a tenant survey, which was accomplished with the assistance of Dr. Nicole Cook, Nova Southeastern University, who led the project. The results were more than encouraging and gave the team the data necessary to design the campaign addressing the CHM community at large. Over three quarters of the tenants supported an indoor smoke-free policy and forty percent of tenants who currently smoked were also in favor an indoor smoke-free environment!

With this encouraging news in hand, the team, together with the property managers and staff social workers, planned next steps for smoking cessation. It was at this juncture that everyone’s confidence was strengthened thanks to the level of participation and commitment. Sheri Schour and Claud Mehu, from Nova-Area Health Education Center were the lead persons on establishing the free, smoking cessation programs throughout the 15 communities, quite a sizeable task!

Valencia Morris from the Florida Department of Health at Miami-Dade County and her counterpart in Broward, Sahyli Alveraz-Vera, together provided amazing support and were involved with the policy implementation process from the beginning. Their hard work and enthusiasm spilled over the edges!

None of this could have been done without the support of Armando Fana, HUD-Miami Field Office Director with whom Juana maintains a solid working relationship for so many operational concerns in all our HUD subsidized properties. Armando assisted in the legal aspects along with CHS counsel to make the document changes necessary establishing the smoke-free policy for all present and future tenants.

Over 2,500 seniors live in our housing communities, now they will live healthier, more carefree and safer lives and breathe easier!

Catholic Health Services is a ministry of the Archdiocese of Miami and the largest post-acute provider in the southeast United States. We provide a full continuum of healthcare and social services to the southeast Florida community. We serve more than 6,000 people on a daily basis with over 7,500 new patients per year and operate 30 facilities in Broward and Miami-Dade counties. For additional information, www.catholichealthservices.org.

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Contact: Maria A. Miranda CHS VP Public Relations 954.484.1515 - 5224