Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Upward and Onward

Tulsa Equality Center Soars

As I cross the country on treks to conferences and seminars, I do my best to break from the business portion of the trips and make every attempt to check out what's going on in those respective communities especially bookstores, haunts and community centers. On a recent junket to Tulsa, Oklahoma, my colleague D.L wanted me to see their rather impressive and for myself a bit "jaw dropping" view of what committed, talented and individuals with vision can accomplishment. Of course, my first thought was "Tulsa is not that much larger than Little Rock, so what's up with this city busting out such a center and my own turf is lacking?" As I pondered that thought our tour began and I was wowed to say the least.

Owned and operated by Oklahomans for Equality, the Dennis R. Neill Equality Center serves the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual & Transgender (LGBT) and allied community. According to its website, the center," is a visible reminder to all Oklahomans of the important role LGBT individuals, families and friends play in our state."  Established in 1995, the Equality Center (formerly the Tulsa GLBT Community Center) is now the second largest LGBT Centers in the region which opened January 23, 2007.

Spanning some 18,000 square foot the center is now located at the corner of 4th and Kenosha in downtown Tulsa, and operated by Oklahomans for Equality. OkEq opened Oklahoma’s first LGBT Community Center in October 1996. The Center quickly became the focal point for the community and subsequently moved to two larger locations over the years. The staff emphasized that the Equality Center exists to connect and empower the LGBT and allied community. As the tour began, we passed through a hallway that featured a micro gift shop selling a variety of buttons, assorted trinkets and rainbow infused items that serves as a source of additional income. The TV Lounge area complete with a large flat screen TV ia surrounded by comfortable and cushy loungers that just make you want to hang out whether the TV is on or not. This was just the beginning and there was more, much more.  

Moving through the center we learned that it was purchased in October of 2005 after an eight-year capital campaign, the center underwent a complete overhaul through over 7000 hours of 275 volunteer-led renovations.  Representing the design work of a team of professional designers and contributors which features a snazzy event center, a full-service lending library, a wellness center, computer lab, children's zone and history project room. If all this wasn't enough there's an art gallery with a revolving collection as well as  items for sale, plus there's even a communications cubicle for the hearing impaired or deaf. Talk about diversity!

Of course all this didn't just happen. It began as Oklahomans for Equality / OkEq (formerly Tulsa Oklahomans for Human Rights / TOHR) was founded in 1980 by a small group of people concerned about human rights and equality for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) individuals. In the 1980s, OkEq sponsored several high-profile social events for the LGBT and allied community, operated a speakers bureau, launched the first gay pride picnic and sponsored the nationally known “Southwest Invitational” softball tournament. With the advent of HIV/AIDS, OkEq sent medical professionals to health conferences to return and advise the community on the transmission of the virus and other dangers. OkEq then opened Northeast Oklahoma’s first anonymous HIV Testing Clinic, becoming a state leader in HIV/AIDS testing and education. In 1998, H.O.P.E. (Health Outreach, Prevention & Education) became a separate non-profit organization. Today, OkEq and H.O.P.E. continue their partnership with health testing. After the tour, I came away with a sense that even though Little Rock has efforts that are offering some answers to this outpost, its obvious that we have much to do in order to reach this level of community center. How did they do it? It wasn't easy but as with anything, its all about the vision and the people who are willing to make it happen. Think about it....

AIDS in Arkansas
Federal Dollars Are Flowing in the System

COP 24/7 has been committed to offering updated information and breaking news concerning all things HIV/AIDS related and beyond. With 2012 being a guidepost of 30 years of AIDS with outlooks to an era wtihout the disease as proposed by Secretary State Clinton in December 2011. What's become more apparent in the struggle to address the dilemma has evolved into an "AIDS Industrial  Complex" bolstered by a federal cash haul of epic proportions and counting. As this funding flows freely throughout the country, Arkansas is not left out but only garners a meager piece of the pie when it comes to qualifying for certain pools of these dollars. According to a Kaiser Family Foundation (www.kkf.org) report President Obama's Fiscal Year Federal Budget request was an estimated $28.4 Billion for both domestic and global AIDS initiatives. When you divy this up that's $21.5 Billion stateside and $6.9 Billion globally. When its all said and done, this request is 4.7 per cent or $1.3 Billion increase over 2011.  Since 2007 funding has increase $7 Billion dollars or 34 per cent to the current levels. The report cites that this growth has been driven by the increase spending on mandatory domestic care and treatment programs, as more people are living with HIV/AIDS in the U.S. Considering this factor, $14.9 Billion or 53 percent of the total budget will be used to fund increase spending in Medicare and Medicaid services. The dollar breakdown also includes the Ryan White Program at $2.4 Billion which includes increased ADAP funding of $940 Million plus another $60 Million in supplemental ADAP funding for states with waiting list or other limitations. Ryan White also annually funds $25 Million for Special Projects of National Significance. Cash and Housing Assistance is slated for 10% increase to $2.7 Billion to handle SSI and SSDI for those with HIV. Meanwhile HOWPA flat lines for a second year at $335 Million. Surprisingly and most astonishing in all this cash outlay is that only 4% of the budget or $997 Million is streamed toward prevention. The prevention dollars flow through the Centers for Disease Control which charged with budgeting $857.6 Million to states for the respective HIV/AIDS programs. Just when I thought that was it, there's more! The Minority HIV/AIDS Initiative geared to addressing the disproportionate of impact among the communities of color pulls down $432 Million which is utilized across various agencies of within the Department of Health and Human Services. Currently Arkansas received approximately $14 Million dollars for Fiscal Year 2010 according to Statehealth Facts. org which had not updated with the most current funding. Even though their have been funding shifts, Arkansas still will get a tidy sum as the various government agencies such as Heath Resources and Services Administration or SAMSHA( Substance Abuse and Mental Health Service Administratoin) add in their revenue streams through substance abuse treatment or other projects. As you can see these dollars are spread far and wide and tucked into various agencies and entities that are pursuing offering services. This would include the city of Little Rock whom farmed out HOWPA dollars, Arkansas Minority Health Commission with their outreach mini grants, Arkansas Department of Health's prevention dollars as well as others in the Rubics cube of dolling out this funding. Yet, with all these dollars bouncing around, there still continues to be gaps in the system that still has over 4,000 people still not in care or any known plan as to how to usher them into the health care system. How could this be, since there seems to be a steady stream of dollars albeit some are "reimbursement" dollars that often deter organizations or entities from accessing them. Surely there should be stepped up efforts from "money pot whatever" to facilitate a direct effort to deal with individuals who need to be encouraged to seek care from a holistic point of view. Its no secret that if a person's life course is questionable, then the pursuit to link them to care is not a priority. Therefore the approach must be two fold including a culturally sensitive angle. Does the state need more money, perhaps. However what's seriously missing is boldness and laser focused vision on forging a path for Arkansas to be apart of the "AIDS Free Generation" that has been proposed on the national and international stage. Do we honestly won't to believe that letting folks die out is a best pracitice. If we know better, then let's do better. Think about it...

Community Health Centers Show Need for Improvement, According to Study

A report from Kaiser Health News-USA TODAY shows that hundreds of the nearly 1,200 community health centers are failing to reach key measures such as vaccinating young children and helping diabetics control their blood sugar. Data from the report also showed that:
  • Centers in the South generally performed worse than those in New England, the Midwest and California
  • Nearly 75% of the centers performed significantly worse — at least 10% below the national average — in screening women for cervical cancer. The national average reflects the care of all Americans.
  • About 73% performed significantly below average in helping diabetics maintain their blood sugar levels.
  • Roughly 28% performed significantly below average for immunizing two-year-olds.
Community health centers served over 20 million mostly poor individuals last year. That number is double the amount of people that sought care from the centers a decade ago.
Community health centers are poised to play a pivotal role in President Obama’s health care reform by helping to accommodate the 30 million people, including many living with HIV/AIDS, who would have access to health insurance beginning in 2014. If the Affordable Care Act is upheld by the Supreme Court, it will provide $11 billion to bolster and expand health centers.
The Kaiser Health News-USA TODAY analysis was based on 2010 data reflective of centers’ clinical performances. Click here to see the data.

Phill Wilson to Present AIDS 2012 Plenary Address: “The US Epidemic”; Calls for Input from Community

The International AIDS Society announced that Phill Wilson, CEO of the Black AIDS Institute, will be giving the plenary address at AIDS 2012 on the US HIV Epidemic. The Black AIDS Institute, the National Minority AIDS Council, and the HIV Prevention Justice Alliance will be hosting a national conference call on April 30th, 2 PM ET to give you the opportunity to provide insight and input to Phill Wilson for the plenary address. More calls will be scheduled in the upcoming weeks and there is also an opportunity to submit ideas in writing.

To register for the call, click here.

To submit written concerns, click here.

1 comment:

tahera said...

Good to know that there are such centers available to treat cancer and other diseases. cancer center of tulsa