Mercella Smith-Whyte

WHY is being healthy so important to Mercella? Read her story below to find out!

Read Her Story

Tune into our new podcast!

Our recently launched Health Is the Key podcast is dedicated to you, our healthcare workers. When you tune in, you’ll hear the latest information from medical experts, mental health professionals and our health industry leaders. You’ll also hear success stories from fellow members to help inspire you on your health journey. We have an exciting lineup of guests, so subscribe wherever you get your podcasts!

Check out our video series!

When it comes to healthy living, the most inspiring stories come right from your fellow 1199SEIU members! That’s why we started our Members’ Voices video series. Each story is a few minutes long and is sure to motivate you and provide you with down-to-earth advice that will support you on your own health journey!

Would you like to share your healthy living story in an episode of Members’ Voices? Email us at [email protected] to tell us a little about yourself. We look forward to hearing from you!

Donna Rey, EdD

Executive Director and CEO,
1199SEIU Benefit and Pension Funds

Message from the Executive Director

Dear 1199SEIU Members,

A year can go by in the blink of an eye. That’s how long we’ve been talking about our health journeys together and what a year it has been! It seems like just yesterday when we asked you to tell us why living a healthier life is important to you. So many of you stepped up to share your stories, it motivated us to start our Members’ Voices video series. I have been so personally inspired by you. Part of the reason this conversation means so much to me is because I believe it’s necessary to change the way we think about our health.

Lately, much of the conversation has turned to self-care and lifestyle medicine as important parts of preventive healthcare. As 1199ers, we haven’t just been talking about it; we have been living it. Like many of you, my journey includes eating healthier foods, moving more, getting enough sleep and managing my stress levels. And most of us agree—it’s not always easy.

Here at the Benefit Funds, we continue to build partnerships to support you in making the small changes that can make a big difference in your quality of life. In this issue of For Your Benefit, you’ll hear about our nutrition and movement workshops. You’ll also find information about the many other webinars and classes we offer, so you can connect with one another and take those important next steps on your health journeys.

It seems like just yesterday when we asked you to tell us why living a healthier life is important to you. So many of you stepped up to share your stories, it motivated us to start our Members’ Voices video series. I have been so personally inspired by you.

I hope you’ll take a moment to read the inspiring story of 1199er Mercella Smith-Whyte, who is taking her health journey so that she can be an active part of her three grandchildren’s lives. We are so grateful to the many members who have come forward to share their time and their stories. And I look forward to hearing from even more of you!

Finally, I’m really excited to unveil that we now have our own 1199SEIU Benefit and Pension Funds YouTube channel. You can find out about this and so much more inside this For Your Benefit magazine, so I encourage you to check it out!

In good health,

Donna Rey, EdD
Executive Director and CEO
1199SEIU Benefit and Pension Funds

Van H. Dunn, MD

Chief Medical Officer,
1199SEIU Benefit and Pension Funds

Message from Dr. Van H. Dunn

May is High Blood Pressure Education Month, so it’s a good time to talk about it—especially since it affects nearly 50 percent of the U.S. population.* Also known as hypertension, it is sometimes called a silent killer, because you can walk around with no symptoms and no idea that you have it.

That’s why I recommend you see your healthcare provider regularly to have your blood pressure checked. If your levels are elevated, but it’s detected early, your physician may suggest lifestyle changes to get it under control. But, if you’ve tried that and your pressure is still high, your healthcare provider may prescribe medication.

If you do start taking medication, it’s important that you do NOT skip doses. The best way to get your blood pressure under control is to take your medication as prescribed and have regular follow-up appointments. The only person who should update your prescription is your healthcare provider. You shouldn’t make any changes on your own. When not treated properly, hypertension can damage your heart, eyes and other organs.

The good news is that lifestyle changes, such as eating a healthy diet and getting regular exercise can help prevent hypertension. Stress can also play a role. And as healthcare workers, stress is something we know all too well. So managing your stress can make a big difference in managing your blood pressure.

I speak from experience—I’ve been managing my hypertension since medical school.

I speak from experience—I’ve been managing my hypertension since medical school. I cut out desserts and sugary drinks and lost 80 pounds. But I still routinely see my healthcare provider and monitor my blood pressure regularly to make sure it’s under control. If I can do it, so can you!

Visit Healthy Hearts page of our Healthy Living Resource Center for more information.

*Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

Health Benefits

7 ways stress affects your body

If you’ve ever been on a roller coaster, you’re familiar with the slow tick of the track as you climb the hill to the top for that first plunge. Your heart races with uncertainty and excitement, steadily building until you’re on the brink. Sound familiar? Stress can be a roller coaster, with those same twists and turns and, if we’re not careful, an emotional peak that can have a big impact on our minds and bodies.

Think stress is just about the mind? Think again. Not only is stress a burden on your mental health, leading to feelings of burnout, anxiety and depression, but stress that’s not dealt with can lead to many physical health problems, including:

  1. High blood pressure
  2. Migraines and tension headaches
  3. Hormonal changes caused by an increase of stress hormones like cortisol
  4. Heart disease
  5. Stroke
  6. Obesity
  7. Diabetes

The good news is that with the right support, you can reduce or eliminate the effects of stress altogether.


We’ve all felt that slow rise in emotion and pressure that feels inescapable, but it doesn’t have to take you for a ride!

1. Make time for self-care

Even when you’re busy, you can still take a moment for yourself to do something you enjoy. Whether it’s sitting down with a book, taking a long shower, going for a walk or enjoying your favorite meal, the options are endless.

2. Boost your mind-body connection

Have a minute? Then you have enough time to reduce stressful energy with a 60-second meditation session. Close your eyes, think of a fun memory or encouraging thought, and breathe in and out slowly.

3. Get moving

When you’re stressed, the last thing you may want to do is exercise, but lacing up those sneakers is sure to release stress-busting endorphins. Any movement counts—from yoga to jogging to stretching or marching in place, stress is no match against a good sweat session!

4. Talk it out

Sometimes it helps to have someone to talk to. Whether it’s a friend or a professional like a counselor or therapist, reach out if you could use someone to listen and help you troubleshoot the issues that have been weighing on your mind.

Need help dealing with stress?

For information and tips, visit the Healthy Minds section of our Healthy Living Resource Center or call the Benefit Funds’ Wellness Member Assistance Program at (646) 473-6900 for a confidential referral.

Your healthcare is covered!

What health plans can BeneStream enroll you in?


Medicaid is comprehensive public health coverage that includes dental, vision and prescription coverage at little to no cost.

Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP)

For families who may earn too much to qualify for Medicaid, CHIP is a free government health insurance option available for children.

New York State Essential Plans

New York State Health Plans, such as Healthfirst, offer comprehensive benefits with no premiums and low-cost sharing for individuals who have household incomes up to 250% of the federal poverty level.

New York State Marketplace or Out-of-State Plans

Health plans, certified by—and available on—the Health Insurance Marketplace for those who do not qualify for a public health plan. Th ey have limits on deductibles, co-pays and out-of-pocket maximums.


Medicare is a public health plan that provides coverage to seniors age 65 and older.

If you are interested in BeneStream, contact our Member Services Department at (646) 473-9200 or [email protected].

Expecting? Register for our NEW prenatal webinar!

Some of the most frequent questions we’ve received from expectant mothers have been about nursing. So, join us for our Wellness Department’s next prenatal webinar to learn about ways to nourish yourself and your baby. From formula to breast milk, nursing positions, milk supply and more—our Wellness expert will be on hand to answer your questions. Partners are welcome.

Plus, members who attend will have a chance to win a $150 Target gift card!

If you have any questions, please call (646) 473-8962 or email [email protected]

Bringing you our new NAMI-NYC mental health series!

If you or a loved one need mental health support, but don’t know where to start, the Benefit Funds have partnered with the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI-NYC) for an interactive online healthy minds series. The series focuses on mental health awareness and provides resources and connections you can rely on. It doesn’t have to be difficult to find good mental health help. Take a look at the schedule and descriptions below and register for a spring workshop today!

Check out our YouTube channel!

Looking for some quick dinner inspiration? Check out one of our healthy, mouth-watering cooking demos! Thinking about taking that yoga class, but can’t make it to the gym on time? Tune in and join Foluke for some easy, but powerful stretches. Feeling stressed? We’ve got you. Get some coping strategies from Dr. Karinn Glover or try some deep breathing exercises with Lupe, our 1199 social worker. You can even listen to our Health Is the Key podcast and get motivated with our Members’ Voices videos. There are just so many possibilities on our new YouTube channel! Now you can find all these healthy living videos in one convenient place!

Explore our playlists and get involved with our 1199SEIU community posts. So, subscribe today, share with your family and friends and come back often. We regularly add new videos created to educate, entertain and inspire you! 

Teladoc Health: 24/7 care for all Home Care members

If you or your child is sick and need help right away, you can get the care you need from the comfort of your home 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, with Teladoc, a telehealth service.

No matter how you get your health benefits, Teladoc 24/7 is available to all Home Care members. When you’re not feeling well, quality care is just a phone call or click away.

With Teladoc, you can:

  • Get a diagnosis and recommended treatment for conditions such as cold and flu, fever, sprains and strains, backaches, rashes and more
  • Get a prescription for medication, if necessary

Go to to set up an account and get started, or call (800) TELADOC (835-2362)

Do you want to become a U.S. citizen? We can help!

Applying to become a U.S. citizen can be a complicated process. That’s why the 1199SEIU Citizenship Program is here. Jointly administered by the 1199SEIU Benefit and Pension Funds and the 1199SEIU Training and Employment Funds, the program provides:

  • Assistance with application preparation and online filing for you and your eligible family members;
  • One-on-one counseling and legal advice;
  • Online citizenship classes for English language learners;
  • Online history and civics classes that will prepare you for
  • your naturalization interview and test; and
  • Help with other needs, such as fee waivers and more!

Our Citizenship Program is available to you at no cost, but it does not cover all U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) charges and application fees.

You can schedule a video or phone appointment by calling (646) 473-8915 or by emailing [email protected] or [email protected]. Services are available in English, Spanish, Russian, Mandarin, Cantonese, Haitian Creole and French.

Training Benefits

Training and Employment Funds help you advance your healthcare career

The Training and Employment Funds (TEF) provide you with education to advance your career. Through TEF, you can use your education benefits to increase your earnings and advance into hundreds of high-demand health careers.

College Degree Programs

TEF offers an array of options to support your success in healthcare degree programs, including associate’s, bachelor’s, master’s, PhD and professional degrees. There are also special initiatives for high-demand healthcare careers, such as registered nurses, nurse practitioners, respiratory therapists and social workers.

Attend an online Tuition Assistance Information Session to learn how TEF can help make college affordable to you as you pursue your degree.

Log in to MyTEF to register for a session.

Health Careers College Core Curriculum (HC4) Program

The Health Careers College Core Curriculum (HC4) Program is for adult learners with little or no experience in higher education pursuing undergraduate degrees in various allied health fields. The HC4 Program works with college partners to enable you to take “core” prerequisite courses required to complete your degree.

Email [email protected] to find out if this program is right for you.

Member Advantages

Contact your Outreach Coordinator if you have benefit and pension questions

Coordinator: Mayra Bonilla

Contact: (917) 675-0744 or [email protected]

Language: Spanish

Coordinator: Nancy Polanco

Contact: (347) 886-3523 or [email protected]

Language: Spanish

Coordinator: Evelyn Morales

Contact: (917) 846-9850 or [email protected]

Language: Spanish

Coordinator: Jessica Zou

Contact: (347) 498-4270 or [email protected]

Language: Cantonese

Coordinator: Ying (Connie) Liu

Contact: (646) 584-5626 or [email protected]

Language: Cantonese/Mandarin

Coordinator: Diana Vorm

Contact: (917) 471-3050 or [email protected]

Language: Russian

Coordinator: Irina Ellis

Contact: (646) 261-0312 or [email protected]

Language: Russian

Have you signed up for MyAccount?

We know your time is important, which is why your Benefit Fund works to bring you convenient ways to access your benefits and important information. MyAccount is an easy-to-use, personalized online platform designed to help you quickly make updates, sign up for popular programs and more.

With MyAccount, you can:

  • Change your address and personal information;
  • View your health information;
  • View Explanation of Benefits (EOB) statements;
  • Request a member calendar;
  • Link to your training benefits; and
  • Request a pension estimate.

Join over 190,000 members who have created accounts!

Learn about long-life superfoods!

We all want to live a long, healthy life. What if there were foods that could help make that happen? There are! Register today to attend our online workshop, “Learn about Long-life Superfoods.” A Wellness health educator will introduce you to the best foods for longevity. Plus, there’ll be a special cooking demonstration to show how to incorporate these superfoods into your diet.

The Amalgamated—Healthy Finances workshops are back!

Do you wish you knew more about how to improve your finances? Take the guesswork out and get a fresh start by attending one of our online financial workshops this spring.

Visit the Healthy Living Resource Center

Living a healthy life allows us to fully engage and be there for our loved ones, friends, co-workers and clients. The Healthy Living Resource Center can support you on the path to wellness. The Resource Center is divided into five sections: Healthy Minds, Healthy Bodies, Healthy Hearts, Healthy Eating and Healthy Relationships with Your Healthcare Providers. Explore each topic for expert advice, helpful stats, resources, classes, event listings and much more.

See why 1199ers are joining WeightWatchers!

There’s a reason why almost 6,000 1199ers have signed up—because WeightWatchers® has a proven track record of helping members reach their goals. WW provides meal planning, an award-winning app and more than 12,000 tasty recipes. Now, we even have our own workshops and Connect social network to help our 1199 community support one another and exchange information. And the best part is when you join through the Benefit Funds, you can take advantage of our discounted—or no-cost—premium membership!

Findhelp when you need it

findhelp Logo

Findhelp is an online resource that directs you to free or low-cost community-based programs and services near where you and your family live and work. With our Wellness Member Assistance Program, we now offer a customized search engine to provide you with resources for emotional well-being, food security, housing assistance, transit, additional child care, legal assistance and other goods and services.

Home Care For Your Benefit

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