Meet Your Provider: Maria V. Menzel, MSW, LCSW
Zufall Health’s Maria Menzel, MSW, LCSW, will never forget the compassionate support that her family received from a hospital social worker during a family health crisis—the severely premature birth of her twin niece and nephew—12 years ago. The experience revealed to Menzel the importance of social workers in medical settings and paved the way for her current-day career in social work.
Menzel was in the hospital with her sister, Tanya, the day that she delivered her twin daughter and son three months early. The babies, born with severe medical complications, spent more than four months in the NICU and underwent emergency surgeries before they were strong enough to go home.
“Those days were traumatizing for all of us,” said Menzel, whose niece and nephew live with cerebral palsy and pontocerebellar hypoplasia, respectively. “I admired the social worker’s ability to advocate for Tanya as she dealt with her own complications like gestational diabetes, connect the family with medical specialists and other services, and provide the emotional support required for them to thrive.”
When the twins were born, Menzel already had a professional background working with children, families and their health. She was a case manager for a nonprofit agency supporting people with severe medical conditions. Previously, as a child protective services case manager with the New York City Administration for Children Services, Menzel helped families in distress stay together. But when a social worker alleviated a health emergency in her own family, Menzel became inspired to strengthen her capacity to help others. And so, she enrolled in a master’s of social work program at Rutgers University and subsequently held internships working with children in schools.
Today, as a senior behavioral health provider and licensed clinical social worker at Zufall, Menzel is committed to providing high-quality, trauma-informed behavioral health services for families like her own. She collaborates with her colleagues in primary care to treat people of all ages who struggle with mental health challenges like anxiety, depression, and post-traumatic stress disorder. She also works with case managers to link her patients to resources and supportive services.
“Our collaboration is essential because primary care and behavioral health are intertwined. When we acknowledge the connection between the mind and the body, we can address the needs of the whole patient,” says Menzel.
The mind-body connection is especially relevant for Menzel, who cares for many individuals with complex medical needs. In particular, she facilitates our Spanish-speaking breast cancer support group; counsels pediatric patients with obesity to encourage healthy lifestyle changes; and helps patients with other chronic conditions, like diabetes and HIV/AIDS, navigate their treatment.
Menzel is proud to emulate the work of the hospital social worker every day in a way that is especially meaningful to her. As a child, Menzel received primary care from El Nuevo San Juan Health Center, a community health center in the Bronx. She considers her role a special way of giving back the kindness that was given to her.
“If not for that community health center, I may not have had access to primary care as a child,” Menzel reflects. “It is a privilege to provide behavioral health care in a similar setting today and to be able to help not just individuals, but entire families, improve their health.”