May 2022 Alumni Spotlight
In this month’s Alumni Spotlight, we speak to MPA alumnus Patrick Masseo, Director of Strategic Initiatives at 1199SEIU Benefit and Pension Funds. He tells us about his current position, his previous work experience, the various work he had done as part of the COVID-19 response, and more.
Congratulations on your current new role as Director of Strategic Initiatives at 1199SEIU Benefit and Pension Funds! Could you tell us a bit more about the organization and what your role entails?
Thank you, I’m very excited to join the team at 1199 Benefit and Pension Funds. The organization does an outstanding job providing comprehensive self-insured, self-administered healthcare and retirement benefits to members and retirees of 1199SEIU United Health Care Workers East, and their dependents. My role is to help create and implement short term interventions and long-term strategies that will improve health outcomes for members. This involves helping promote and connect members to their benefits as well as partnering with care providers on innovative programs and care improvement projects.
Could you tell us about your previous role as Senior Advisor of Health Policy at NYC Mayor’s Office, Office of the Deputy Mayor for Health and Human Services? What were your biggest challenges? What initiatives were you working on to implement?
The first thing to share is the honor and joy it was working with teammates in the Deputy Mayor’s Office of Health and Human Services and colleagues throughout City Hall. Each day, especially throughout COVID-19, we worked tirelessly to make NYC a healthier, more equitable and prosperous place. Good government driven by good people makes a good deal of difference. I joined the DMHHS office in late 2019, just before COVID-19, as a Health Policy Advisor to work on the public health side of the office. Over time I was fortunate to be promoted to a Senior Advisor role which, as can many of the staff roles, can be thought of as serving in support of and as an extension of the Deputy Mayor.
Day to day we help process and distill information to inform decision making. Once a decision is made, we act on the power of the Deputy Mayor to help implement but without their authority. In normal times, the role can be thought of in four buckets: 1) mayoral priority policies and programs, 2) agency executive management, 3) legislation and rulemaking, and 4) messaging and communications. The job is to effectuate the policy priorities of the Deputy Mayor and Mayor across all four buckets. The biggest challenges root in the inundating volume and speed of work that is required to operate at. In a city of 8.8 million people, a tremendous amount occurs each day that ultimately falls to the staff at City Hall to help address. A phrase you’ll often hear to describe the environment is “drinking from a fire hose 24/7.”
I am most proud of my work helping lead the effort to open the first Overdose Prevention Centers in the country here in New York City. Overdose Prevention Centers are supervised, hygienic spaces for people who use drugs to do so safely, while also providing harm reduction, physical and behavioral health services. These essential centers save lives daily. It was a multi-year effort dating back to foundational work from the NYC Department of Health and Mental Hygiene before I arrived, as early as 2017, which we carried forward starting in Summer 2020 and achieved the first two sites in the country opening on November 30, 2021, operated by the amazing organization and partner OnPoint NYC.
During such times of the virus pandemic, could you tell us about the various work you have done as part of the COVID-19 response?
I was involved in the very earliest planning for the pandemic and throughout the City’s long response to SARS-COV-2. This involved inter-agency collaborative planning, tracking of materials and early potential cases, drafting letters to the federal government, the initial quarantining effort and then a focus on fatality management.Although it is the most difficult part of the response to think about, the work with the Office of Chief Medical Examiner leading fatality management and execution in partnership with NYC Emergency Management and NYS National Guard was unmatched in the country. The team did an outstanding, under-appreciated job providing respectful, dignified, and safe handling of our fellow New Yorkers who passed-on during that time. Luckily, I was also a part of one of the brightest parts of the pandemic response which was the COVID-19 random in-school surveillance testing program. The success of this program made in-person school possible during the 2020-21 school year and an effort we lead locally that was emulated throughout the country.
You have worked before for BronxCare Health System Family Medicine as Program Director. Could you tell us about the mission there, what your role entailed, and what were some of your most notable accomplishments?
I was fortunate to work for a very progressive Chairman who understood health care needed to be so much more than diagnosis and treatment. He led our department with the mission to improve quality of life, one patient at a time. This suffused into all of our work; co-locating primary and behavioral health care, providing centralized inter-disciplinary care, care transition planning, developing a comprehensive community health worker program to help advocate for patients, screening and referring patients with socio-economic needs to resources, and partnering with the community to create programs that addressed their priorities. Leading the Claremont Healthy Village Initiative, a cross-sector collaboration of community partners working to expand resources and create opportunities for Claremont community members in the South Bronx was my most rewarding accomplishment. Through partnerships we promoted healthy cooking and eating, introduced art and sports activities to inspire healthy lifestyles, generated youth internships to teach leadership skills, engaged local residents in the political process including voter registration, integrated behavioral health care with local community centers, and so much more.
What are some key benefits from your Marxe MPA experience? How did your MPA prepare you for the work that you do?
Speaking with classmates was my favorite part of the Marxe MPA. Everyone, no matter where they were in their career or what their planned next step, had a wealth of experience to share and provided so much learning opportunity. The conversations exposed you to many different sectors / spaces of the government, health, human services, non-profit worlds. The curriculum and professors also taught me so much. Whether it was practicing memo writing and speech-making in Introduction to Communications, developing accountability metrics in Introduction to Non-Profit Management, learning the history and development processes of health policy in advanced health care classes or the unique Improv for Democracy class that challenged our understanding and comfort with public speaking, each assignment and classroom conversation presented perspectives and information that helped us grow in preparation for whatever would come next.