Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Heinz-Welvista Offer Solution to Escalating Crisis Facing People Living with HIV/AIDS

In the mid-1990s with the advent of anti-retroviral therapies for people living with HIV/AIDS, a disease that was once characterized as a death-sentence quickly became a chronic, manageable disease.  Lessons learned over the previous decade – especially from the three epicenters in New York, Los Angeles and San Francisco – fueled an advocacy movement that yielded the Ryan White Community AIDS Resources Emergency Act, otherwise known as the Ryan White CARE Act – named after the young boy, Ryan White, who galvanized the national conscious over the stigma facing people living with HIV/AIDS.
Fast forward to 2010, despite all the news over health care reform and improving access to care for the uninsured and under-insured, there exists a crisis facing people living with HIV/AIDS trying to access their life-saving medications.  Under the Ryan White law – specifically Part B of the Act – there is the AIDS Drug Assistance Program, or what is commonly known as ADAP.  There are currently over 168,000 Americans who rely on ADAPs to provide them with their anti-HIV medications, but unfortunately not everyone is getting their medications.
A “perfect storm” has befallen the cash-strapped ADAPs nationwide as the recession led to more people needing to access the safety-net program, in addition to other factors – such as inadequate federal funding and state budget cuts, just to name a few.  The end result is there are 3,441 people living with HIV/AIDS in nine states who have been placed on “waiting lists” for ADAP services.  These waiting lists put the very people that ADAP’s services are designed to help in danger, because without access to their medications people living with HIV/AIDS run the risk of developing opportunistic infections or worse, drug resistance to the medication.
As of September 23rd, ADAPs in crisis included Florida with 1,796 people, Georgia with 553 people, Iowa with 0 people (program capped on September 15, 2010), Kentucky with 227 people, Louisiana with 439 people, Montana with 10 people, North Carolina 36 people, Ohio with 232 people and South Carolina with 148 people.[1]
While there are efforts in Washington, DC and in the various states to alleviate the crisis by securing additional funding, there are other innovative solutions underway to link people to care.  Among them is the solution being made available by the Heinz Family Philanthropies and Welvista Pharmacy, which is a national leader in providing medication to the uninsured.  The Heinz-Welvista solution to the ADAP crisis is a “unique public-private partnership of non-governmental healthcare intervention.”  It is currently being supported by Abbott Laboratories, Merck & Co., Tibotec Therapeutics – and efforts are underway to bring on other pharmaceutical companies.
According to a press statement released earlier this year, “The program eliminates all enrollment forms for these patients. Enrollment is virtually automatic for anyone certified on an ADAP waiting list and can provide direct access to no-cost…HIV medications through Welvista. Patients who are on ADAP waiting lists and need to access this solution to receive their…medications can request their state ADAP contact Welvista. If need exists after one year, the program may be extended.”[2]
Eligible ADAP clients on the waiting lists must complete several easy steps, which include:
          The patient must be currently on a State ADAP waiting list;
          The State ADAP Coordinator must sign the form authorizing the patient to receive medications;
          The completed form must be faxed to Welvista at the number on the form - 1-877-801-8146;
          It may be necessary to submit the form to the Healthcare provider for prescription information; and
          Once the prescribing authority has completed the prescription, it can be faxed directly to Welvista at 1-877-801-8146 by the Healthcare provider.
The Heinz-Welvista solution has been welcomed news in an otherwise bleak environment.  In fact, Jeffrey Lewis, President of the Heinz Family Philanthropies, summarized it best in his recent Op-Ed to the Boston Herald when he said, “The one-stop solution created through this partnership works quite simply: It eliminates all enrollment forms, making enrollment automatic for anyone certified on an ADAP waiting list.  Patients on the waiting lists who need access to no-cost Abbott, Merck or Tibotec HIV medications need only request that their state ADAP program representative contact Welvista. HIV/AIDS meds will be shipped directly to the patient or to a medical provider if so preferred. Program costs are covered by grants provided by all the participants and administered by Welvista. This market-based solution is a national initiative designed to help patients in any state.”
This solution represents the very best of public-private partnerships designed to link people who need services to the people (and organizations) that are offering the services.  Despite the crisis facing the AIDS Drug Assistance Program, initiatives such as this one provide a little bit of hope!
The WE Movement and its HELP4U platform support this worthwhile initiative.  We have joined, will you?  Learn more at

[1] National Alliance of State & Territorial AIDS Directors (NASTAD), The ADAP Watch, September 23, 2010.
[2] Welvista, PRNewswire-USNewswire: “Welvista, Heinz Family Philanthropies and Abbott Announce Solution for HIV Patients Waiting for HIV Medications,” May 7, 2010.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Homelessness Fueled by Recession, Unemployment and Foreclosures!

According to the National Alliance to End Homelessness (“NEAH”), on any given night in the United States there are 671,859 people experiencing homelessness based on point-in-time counts, which are required annually by the U.S. Department of Housing & Urban Development (“HUD”).  The numbers are staggering when considering that there is an estimated 85,000 families experience homelessness each night, there are approximately 131,000 homeless veterans and an estimated 50,000 youth experience long-term homelessness.[1]
NAEH reports that the people experiencing homelessness:
  • 18 percent of the homeless population is considered "chronic," and
  • 20 percent of the homeless population is made up of veterans.
Additionally, according to the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, there are approximately 1.5 million other veterans also at risk of homelessness due to poverty, lack of support networks, and dismal living conditions in overcrowded or substandard housing.[2]  The National Coalition for Homeless Veterans states that there are a “complex set of factors influencing all homelessness – extreme shortage of affordable housing, livable income and access to health care – a large number of displaced and at-risk veterans live with lingering effects of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and substance abuse, which are compounded by a lack of family and social support networks.”
While the ongoing recession, high unemployment and increased foreclosures have fueled homelessness in the United States, numerous efforts have provided some relief.
On February 17, 2009, President Obama signed the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009, which includes $1.5 billion for a Homelessness Prevention Fund. Funding for this program, called the Homelessness Prevention and Rapid Re-Housing Program (“HPRP”), is being distributed based on the formula used for the Emergency Shelter Grants (“ESG”) program.[3]
The key to eradicating homelessness is tailoring temporary and long-term solutions, offering housing support services – such as ongoing case management, employment and job training/retraining services, healthcare and other treatments, as well as other services.
The City of San Francisco reported this month that their efforts have yielded a reduction in homelessness by 12,000 people over the last six years.  Mayor Gavin Newsom attributed the reduction to two very successful programs – Care Not Cash and Homeward Bound.  The former helps pay for housing while the latter pays for people’s bus tickets home.  Efforts to find permanent supportive housing have also contributed to the City’s success in reducing the number of people experiencing homelessness.
Additionally, San Francisco has used an approach similar to the one employed by HELP4U’s online platform with its Project Homeless Connect by connecting people to services through a one-stop shop.
The WE Movement and its HELP4U were honored to support such a worthwhile event.  We have joined, will you?  Learn more at

[1] National Alliance to End Homelessness, “Snapshot of Homelessness,” 2010.
[2] National Coalition for Homeless Veterans, “Background & Statistics,” 2010.
[3] U.S. Department of Housing & Urban Development, “Homelessness Prevention and Rapid Re-Housing Program,” 2010.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Celebrating 40 Years of Promoting Communities of Choice!

On September 13th, WE celebrated 40 years of progressive community supports and services, as the American Network of Community Options & Resources (ANCOR) rejoiced as “integral contributors to creating a better future for the hundreds of thousands of lives we touch in meaningful ways each and every day!”  With the Smithsonian American Art Museum’s National Portrait Gallery as the historic backdrop, leaders from across the United States assembled to recognize ANCOR’s commitment to creating a better future for people with disabilities.

The celebration was humbled by the exhibit of self-portraits by individuals served by nonprofit providers of supports and services to people with disabilities. This opportunity to see through the eyes of people with disabilities reinforced the message ANCOR members have been sharing for four decades – the value of peoples with disabilities as contributing members of our communities.

ANCOR CEO, Renee L. Pietrangelo delivered a rousing speech in the center of the portrait archives by marking the endeavors of numerous community leaders, their nonprofit agencies and most importantly, the people that they serve.  Pietrangelo paid tribute to the power behind the differing “abilities” that each and every person offers regardless of their disability.  She retraced the forty years of struggle of the last civil rights movement seeking to achieve equality and inclusion, cheering the progress that has been achieved along the way.

[Photo seen left to right: Tim Murrill of Ramsell Corp., Renee Loran Pietrangelo of ANCOR American Network of Community Options and Resources, and Brandon Macsata of TMKG]
The talents celebrated last evening were embodied in the self-portraits of the heroes with disabilities – and their direct support professionals – that were among the 300+ people in the audience.  The paint, pencil, marker, sculpture, textiles or whatever medium that was used by these inspirational artists demonstrated that the “content of their character” empowers them to achieve greatness.  Rarely does one event ignite such motivation, as well as the revealing spirit of equality.  By promoting communities of choice for people with significant disabilities, ANCOR will seek to celebrate another 40 years of bringing people with disabilities closer to their communities.
Over two dozen inspirational nominees were inducted into the ANCOR Foundation’s inaugural Legacy Leaders Circle – which commemorated “the accomplishments of the men and women who have paved the way in making ANCOR the premier trade association representing more than 800 private providers for nearly 500,000 Americans with disabilities.”
Through ANCOR’s network of nearly 800 community service providers and 44 state provider associations, they have maintained a strong and coherent community for four decades, more often than not moving beyond what divides us and uniting around common needs, values and shared experience. They’ve exercised leadership at every level that has translated into stable, high quality and innovative supports and services for people with disabilities and their families.
The WE Movement and its HELP4U were honored to support such a worthwhile event.  We have joined, will you?  Learn more at

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

On Labor Day, Work should be about Abilities!

For nearly 130 years, Labor Day has been a national celebration of the “contributions workers have made to the strength, prosperity, and well-being of our country!” The first Labor Day holiday was celebrated on Tuesday, September 5, 1882, in New York City. Some twelve years later, Congress passed legislation designating the first Monday in September of each year as a federal holiday. 1

The U.S. Department of Labor’s website states, “The vital force of labor added materially to the highest standard of living and the greatest production the world has ever known and has brought us closer to the realization of our traditional ideals of economic and political democracy. It is appropriate, therefore, that the nation pay tribute on Labor Day to the creator of so much of the nation's strength, freedom, and leadership — the American worker.”

Labor Day 2010 was designated as “The State of the American Worker” complete with striking speeches by President Obama, DOL Secretary Hilda Solis and many others across the country. In her online video, Secretary Solis said that the American worker wants “an American that produces things again…a nation that is strong…that leads the international marketplace in innovation and a commitment to quality…and [we need] jobs!”

With ailing economy, employment is something that is important to every single American. But aside from all the accomplishments of the American worker – and once all the Labor Day celebrations have passed – one striking statistic remains: unemployment of people with disabilities in America is staggering!

In August 2010, the percentage of people with disabilities in the labor force was 22.0. By comparison, the percentage of persons with no disability in the labor force was 70.2. The unemployment rate for those with disabilities was 15.6 percent, compared with 9.3 percent for persons with no disability, not seasonally adjusted. 2

Despite wanting to work, as well as being able to offer their unique perspective to the workforce, nearly 8 out of 10 Americans with disabilities are not working. So it begs the question, how can America lead the international marketplace in innovation and commitment to quality when there are literally millions of diverse, talented potential workers being denied the opportunity simply because of their disability? Shouldn’t every American be provided an opportunity to fulfill one of the single most important responsibilities expected of us – and that is work?

[Photo: Platte County Board of Services for the Developmentally Disabled]

This isn’t a new problem. And it’s not a problem that has been ignored – evidenced by numerous federal initiatives to provide meaningful employment opportunities for people with disabilities, including, but not limited to the Javits-Wagner-O’Day Act (JWOD), Rehabilitation Act of 1973, and Ticket-to-Work & Self-Sufficiency Act. The federal government has also created tax incentives for businesses to hire employees with disabilities, offered comprehensive resources about workplace accommodations for employers, and provided high quality online information and technical assistance to promote the inclusion of employees with disabilities in the workplace.

Only by EVERY American – regardless of their ability, or disability – contributing their talents to the American workforce can our economy thrive and achieve the economic boom of decades past. The Campaign for Disability Employment is promoting that message, because “at work, it’s what people can do that matters.”

Resources, training and support exist in nearly every community nationwide. Community nonprofit agencies – such as Goodwills, Easter Seals, Jewish Vocational Services, and UCPs – have lead the way for decades by opening doors that otherwise would have been closed for so many people with significant disabilities seeking employment opportunities. Through their dedication and commitment, many people with disabilities have lived more independently and made important contributions to their communities.

Corporate America understands the value of disability diversity in the workplace. Business Leadership Networks exist across the United States. Businesses join BLNs “to expand their diversity recruiting efforts to include people with disabilities – not as a social model but as a business case to recruit talent and better serve their customers.”

With the ongoing military conflicts in Afghanistan and Iraq, more and more of our men and women in uniform are returning to American as “wounded warriors” in need of job training skills. According to DOL, “Some Service Members return home with injuries that may not be visible, but can impact daily life, including employment. The changing nature of combat today has caused a sharp increase in Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI) and Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), which are increasingly recognized as the signature injuries of the current operations in Iraq and Afghanistan.”

So as our nation rebounds from the Great Recession, and America’s economy begins to flourish again it is important that people with disabilities play a fundamental role in our recovery. Why? Again, because “We” includes everyone – regardless of their ability, or disability!

We have joined, will you? Learn more at


1. U.S. Department of Labor, “The History of Labor Day,” September 2010.

2. U.S. Department of Labor, Office of Disability Employment Policy, “August Disability Employment Statistics,” September 2010.

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

No One Should Go Hungry!

The morning newspapers and evening news broadcasts have been filled with stories about people losing their jobs, as well as their homes during what has commonly become known as “The Great Recession.” But there is more to this story because the impact of the economic hardship trickles down to nearly every aspect of life…often impacting even the most basic necessities. Take for example, simply trying to put food on the table!

Over the last several years, food pantries and shelters have seen a sharp rise in the number of people seeking help. While the areas of the country hardest hit are also the ones most impacted by the recession, no area is immune from this trend. Urban, rural and suburban areas alike have all succumbed to the harsh realities of more people needing food assistance.

In November 2009, demand at the Second Harvest Food Bank of East Central Indiana is up 30 to 50 percent from the previous year. It is reported that one in four children in the region were struggling with hunger. Capacity issues forced food shelters to reevaluate food distribution, storage facilities, volunteers, program efficiency and financial solvency, just to name a few (The Ball State Daily News, 11/09).

Fast forward to 2010 and unfortunately, things haven’t improved for many. According to a study released in February of this year, nine percent of residents in Massachusetts were utilizing food or shelter assistance. Between 2006 and 2010, Massachusetts witnessed a 23 percent increase in the number of people using a food pantry, soup kitchen or pantry. It isn’t surprising that the homeless and elderly were most likely to need help from the food shelters in the commonwealth (WBUR 90.9FM, 02/10).

These statistics paint a picture of a very real problem in America – one that was captured in well-known report released by Feeding America. “Hunger in America 2010: A Report on Emergency Food Distribution in the United States” was the largest study of domestic hunger ever conducted, with more than 61,000 face-to-face client interviews and more than 37,000 surveys of local charitable agencies. 1

Some key findings included: 2

• Each week, approximately 5.7 million people receive emergency food assistance from an agency served by a Feeding America member. This is a 27percent increase over numbers reported in Hunger in America 2006, which reported that 4.5 million people were served each week.

• 76 percent (10 million) of client households served are food insecure, meaning they do not always know where they will find their next meal.

• 36 percent of these client households are experiencing food insecurity with hunger, meaning they are sometimes completely without a source of food.

• Many of the client households served by Feeding America food banks report that their household incomes are inadequate to cover their basic household expenses.

  • 46 percent of client households served report having to choose between paying for utilities or heating fuel and food. 
  • 39 percent of client households said they had to choose between paying for rent or a mortgage and food.
  • 34 percent of client households report having to choose between paying for medical bills and food.
  • 35 percent of client households must choose between transportation and food.
Astoundingly, 68 percent of pantries, 42 percent of soup kitchens, and 15 percent of emergency shelters rely solely on volunteers and have no paid staff. 3

[Photo: Kolton Saulsbury, center, Henry Loudermilk and others load boxes filled with cans and dry food Thursday. Texarkana, Ark., Drug Court participants donated 162 pounds of food to Randy Sams Shelter for the Homeless as part of their probation. Taxarkana Gazzette]

But is there any temporary relief in sight? The answer appears to be: YES!

The federal government is reporting some good news that might help people a little bit more, that the cost of food is going down. The food index declined in July, largely due to the fourth consecutive decline in the fruits and vegetables index. The overall cost for food, however, during the preceding twelve months ending July-2010 remains 0.9 percent higher than last year. 4

In the meantime, linking people to available food pantries and shelters is critically important to reducing the number of Americans who are “food insecure” in America. One such resource, The Shelters & Soup Kitchens Directory, contains links to online shelter & feeding resources, especially for homeless populations. But our effort doesn’t stop there!

We have joined, will you? Learn more at


1. Feeding America, “Hunger in America 2010: A Report on Emergency Food Distribution in the United States,” January 2010.

2. Feeding America, “Hunger in America 2010: A Report on Emergency Food Distribution in the United States,” Executive Summary’s Key Findings, January 2010.

3. Feeding America, “Hunger in America 2010: A Report on Emergency Food Distribution in the United States,” Executive Summary’s Key Findings, January 2010. 
4. United States Department of Labor, Bureau of Labor Statistics, Consumer Price Index, July 2010.