CAP’s Peer Support Program Celebrates it Sixth Year!

Cascade AIDS Project’s Peer Support Program, led by Program Manager Hannah G., has been a driving force in empowering those affected by HIV in our community. The diverse set of Peer Support Specialists (Peers) are selfless heroes that make this work possible.  Running six years strong and expanding, CAP’s Peer Support Program lives by the unofficial motto “meeting individuals where they are”. Whether that be at the hospital, on the street, or at CAP offices, Peers make a point to not force expectations on their clients. Clients served are HIV+, living in the Portland-metro area and experiencing poverty.  In addition to the health challenges associated with HIV, clients are often in need of mental health and/or substance abuse support. Peers work to improve lives holistically, one client at a time.

Peer Program clients come from vastly diverse backgrounds, and therefore have varying needs. To accommodate, clients are selectively partnered with a Peer who best complements their personality, history, strengths, and barriers. Through its three distinct (and distinguished) Peers, CAP is able to reach a wide spectrum of qualifying clients on a personalized, culturally-competent level. Peers understand the stresses associated with an HIV positive status.  Through shared lived experience, Peers can relate to their clients with great understanding and empathy. Because Peers have been through many of the challenges their clients are facing, but have been able to overcome them, reaching a higher level of stability and wellness, Peers are in a distinct position allowing them to share their wealth of knowledge, coping tools, and positive stories.

Peer’s main focus is connecting their clients to regular HIV care, but they do so much more. Clients have complex health and social needs. For instance, those living with substance abuse problems are more likely to be homeless, unemployed, or live in poverty.  Peers help connect clients with resources to address these issues – be that driving clients to interviews or providing an emotional support system during extremely tough times. Some clients have no one else. Despite the challenges posed by client instability and emotionally taxing investment, Peers find ways to make it work. Peers are there to give clients the simple reassurance that someone is there for them – that they are not alone.

Peers have also created outlets for clients, such as a weekly art therapy session. This creative release helps clients express themselves and further connects them to their Peer. Although the final session was held at CAP’s Davidson location this month, they will continue on at CAP’s SW Washington location.

Across the board, Peers find their jobs to be extremely rewarding. One Peer explains the ability to put clients first, and respect their cognitive liberty, gives clients a platform for choice and space to establish trust. In relation to this, Peers feel the program provides a chance to make a difference and take one step forward in changing stigma through empowerment. With all of this however, comes some difficulties. It is hard for Peers to watch their clients fall. Peers must remember to be respectful of clients’ decisions and boundaries.  They make sure to not overstep or intervene too much, for it is ultimately up to clients to make choices.

The Peer Support team provide incredible benefit to the HIV+ community. Their work makes a difference in reducing stigma and provides CAP clients with compassionate healthcare. With an outstanding team to lead this program, CAP looks forward to continue this influential work for many years to come.

Cascade AIDS Project and Kaiser Partner for More Inclusive Intake Forms

CAP and Kaiser Permanente have kicked off a project aimed at changing both the way individuals disclose their gender identity when enrolling in Kaiser insurance and the way gender non-conforming patients are then routed through the healthcare system.

This initiative started with a non-binary CAP HIV/STI Testing Coordinator, Shannon Redmond. They chose not to check a “male” or “female” box during insurance enrollment. As this precluded them from receiving insurance, the employee then went through a lengthy appeal process with Kaiser in an attempt to accurately portray their gender identity on the intake form. While the situation was eventually rectified after multiple months with help from Compensation Systems Northwest, the scenario represented a bigger structural issue within Kaiser and prompted action aimed at rethinking the HMO’s forms and processes.

Over the next year Kaiser and CAP will work together as CAP employees disclose their gender identity to Kaiser using a brand new intake form with options beyond the existing binary male or female. The pilot will allow users to choose male, female, non-binary, or choose to decline. A non-binary or decline response will challenge Kaiser to create new paths to guide patients through its system. For example, these patients may require a combination of traditionally male and female services OR services that bely clinicians’ expectations based on a patient’s gender presentation. On the technological side, individuals have a temporary marker in the system to allow them to be identified by sex and not gender.

Kaiser aims to scale up and roll out this project nationally within a couple years. CAP and Kaiser look forward to the pilot year and the benefit it will provide not only to CAP employees, but the wider Kaiser patient population as the organization learns and grows through the project.

Full press release here.

Prism Health Celebrates its One Year Anniversary with an Open House

Cascade AIDS Project (CAP) is very pleased to announce Prism Health’s one-year anniversary. 

Prism Health is Oregon’s first and only lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, plus all other gender and sexual minorities (LGBTQ+) primary care clinic. As of May 2018, Prism has been open for one full year. To commemorate the event, Prism Health is having a One-Year Anniversary Open House Thursday May 24th 4:30 to 6:30 pm at 2236 SE Belmont Street, Portland. No RSVP necessary.

Prism Health was just an idea three short years ago when its parent organization, CAP, recognized an unfulfilled need in the local LGBTQ+ community for culturally affirming primary care. CAP spent two years, researching, planning, and raising funds for the one-of-a-kind clinic, and in May 2017, Prism Health opened its doors.

In its first year of operation, the clinic has far exceeded patient population projections and demographics. With 450 patients currently engaged in primary care, Prism is well on track to meet longer term patient goals. Over 90% of Prism’s first year patients identify as members of the LGBTQ+ community. Moreover, many of these patients are engaging in primary care for the first time in several years, despite having chronic health issues. Patients state they have finally found a clinic that is accepting and understanding of the LGBTQ+ community. They feel not only safe, but cared for in a culturally specific and tailored manner.

CAP and Prism Health look forward to the year ahead as they execute plans to kick off a clinic mental health program, as well as transition Prism’s mail-order pharmacy to an onsite pharmacy.

Read the full article here.

Elizabeth Taylor AIDS Foundation Raises Money for CAP’s Camp KC

Cascade AIDS Project (CAP) is very pleased to be the beneficiary of fundraising efforts by the Elizabeth Taylor AIDS Foundation.

Through the efforts of Laela Wilding, Ambassador of The Elizabeth Taylor AIDS Foundation (ETAF) and the 2018 Portland Film Fundraiser “Cleopatra”, over $3000 was raised for CAP’s Camp KC. Camp KC is a summer sleep-away camp that takes place every year on the Oregon coast. It is attended by children infected with or affected by HIV.

Children who are HIV-positive, or who live with a family member or caregiver with HIV, face daunting challenges. HIV still carries a potent stigma, and HIV-affected youth fear that if friends or schoolmates learn of the HIV in their family they will be ostracized. As a result, HIV becomes an invisible epidemic, and these children often have no one to talk to about the disease and how to cope with it. Living with HIV and watching family members deal with it is a very real daily stress and fear for these children. To compound the problem, HIV is likely to be only one of a number of serious problems they confront. Aside from health challenges, the families from which campers come are likely to face mental health and addiction issues, a history with the corrections system, and poverty. At Camp KC, children dealing with HIV themselves or in their family can feel “normal” knowing that every other child at camp understands their situation. A staff of dedicated social workers and a medical team experienced with HIV are on hand to make sure that Camp is a safe, fun, growing experience.

CAP thanks ETAF for this donation and fundraising effort. It will have a profound impact on the lives of children attending Camp KC in 2018. To see the full story click here.

Cascade AIDS Project Welcomes Tracy Curtis to Board of Directors

Cascade AIDS Project (“CAP”) is proud to introduce its newest board member, Ms. Tracy Curtis. CAP welcomed Ms. Curtis in December 2017.

Ms. Curtis is a Regional Bank President for Wells Fargo & Company. As an Executive Vice President, she is responsible for managing the customer service, sales and community involvement activities of nearly 800 team members at 74 bank branches in northern Oregon and southwest Washington. A native of England, she began her Wells Fargo career in 1988 as a teller.

Tyler Termeer, CAP Executive Director, says, “We are thrilled to have Tracy’s intelligence, grace, and business acumen on the CAP board. She is a great addition at a time when the organization is growing bigger and bigger.”

Ms. Curtis states, “I am honored and proud to be part of Cascade AIDS Project, especially as the organization is growing and trying new things!”

The full press release appears here.

Cascade AIDS Project Awarded $20,000 For LGBTQ+ Mental Health Program

Cascade AIDS Project is proud to announce that it has been awarded $20,000 from the Oregon Community Foundation to start up an LGBTQ+ Family Mental Health Program.

The program will establish a Family Mental Health Program for LGBTQ+ individuals and families at Oregon’s first LGBTQ+ primary health care clinic, Prism Health. The program addresses the comprehensive set of mental health needs faced by the LGBTQ+ community, and aims to bring on a mental health specialist with significant experience with the LGBTQ+ community.

Photo by: Jason Bing

In Oregon, LGBTQ+ individuals are more likely to suffer from depression and anxiety. LGB have nearly twice the rate of mental distress and more than double the rate of suicide ideation relative to heterosexuals. Transgender adults have 25 times the rate of suicide ideation as non-LGBTQ+. LGBTQ+ youth are five times as likely to attempt suicide as heterosexual youth. Caitlin Wells, CAP’s Director of Healthcare Operations, notes this program will help amend those disparities.

Prism Health opened its doors for primary care in May 2017 and is now ready to utilize its six on-site mental health suites. Starting a mental health program has always been part of Prism’s plan to deliver comprehensive culturally affirming LGBTQ+ healthcare in Portland and Southwest Washington.

The LGBTQ+ Family Mental Health Program will be fully operational by the end of 2018.

For the full press release: LGBTQ+ Family Mental Health Program

Cascade AIDS Project Awarded $100,000 For HIV Prevention Navigation

Cascade AIDS Project is proud to announce that it has been awarded $100,000 from Gilead Sciences, Inc. to fund HIV prevention navigation and STI testing work.

The program addresses the comprehensive set of projects and activities aimed at reducing cases of HIV and STI cases across the Portland, Oregon metropolitan region. Specifically, the program is comprised of easily accessible HIV/STI testing clinics, connection to treatment and support services for those testing positive, community education both for those testing positive to prevent further spread of infections and prevention education for the wider community, and one on one health education session for high-risk individuals focused on personalized prevention strategies.

“A key component of the HIV Prevention Navigation program is testing – which is a critical way to reduce new cases of HIV and limit spread of the epidemic. There is also a strong focus on helping individuals navigate the complicated systems and processes so they, and their partners, can remain in good health,” said Caitlin Wells, CAP’s Director of Healthcare Operations. “Our hope and expectation is that this program will allow us to keep up our work in the community connecting high-risk individuals to low-barrier testing programs and additional resources to guarantee a population that is thriving.”

The grant will fund CAP’s HIV prevention navigation work for one year. Download the full press release here: HIV Prevention Navigation.

Meyer Memorial Trusts awards Cascade AIDS Project two-year grant to explore Prism Health as a Federally Qualified Health Center

                                 

CAP is proud to announce that it has been awarded $113,000 from Meyer Memorial Trust to assess and pursue Federally Qualified Health Center (FQHC) status for Prism Health. The two-year grant will allow the agency to bring on a consultant to help CAP and Prism leadership explore what it takes to become an FQHC, then make the requisite improvements to systems and processes, and ultimately complete the involved application process.

Becoming an FQHC allows Prism Health to reach a wider patient population, with greater barriers to accessing care – such as very low income, certain racial/ethnic identities, and older age. Ultimately, Prism Health aims to improve health outcomes among lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender, plus all other gender and sexual minorities (LGBTQ+) across Multnomah, Clackamas, and Washington Counties. Becoming an FQHC makes sure we reach the LGBTQ+ population equitably and responsibly.

“Prism Health is honored to receive this grant from Meyer Memorial Trust. Our work over the next two years around becoming an FQHC is a critical component in improved LGBTQ+ health and reducing some of the major health disparities currently experienced by the population, especially around sexual and mental health,” says Peter Parisot, Deputy Director of CAP.

The program kicks off in January 2018 and will include a community health assessment, consultation, and a strategic action plan for establishing FQHC status.

World AIDS Day: A Time of Hope & Remembrance

Tyler TerMeer
Executive Director

World AIDS Day is upon us again.  For me, World AIDS Day has always been a time of reflection and remembrance. A time for me to remember those individuals lost along this journey and to reflect on the ways in which HIV has changed the course of my life.

However, this World AIDS Day feels different. This year has felt a bit like we have been under siege.  We have been bombarded with efforts to deprive people of healthcare and attacks on programs that people living with HIV have come to depend. We have felt the tide of racism, xenophobia and misogyny rising. And it’s easy to get overwhelmed by the negativity and fear.

That’s why on this World AIDS Day I am focusing on the ways in which my own life has been enriched. For nearly 14 years I have been living with HIV. As a 34-year-old, gay, HIV positive man of color, I have faced my share of stigma and fear. But I’ve also come to understand the tremendous courage, strength, and compassion that many people have shown in the face of this disease. Personally, becoming positive was a transformation for which I will always be profoundly grateful as it gave me a perspective that was bigger than myself. It catapulted me from a career in the arts to working in HIV policy and activism and it gave me the opportunity to work with and for people most impacted by the epidemic. 

So, this morning, I am thinking of how we can build on our progress and reimagine a new path forward to end the epidemic. We have traveled a long way from the dark beginnings of this disease and have come so far in the fight. The rate of new infections is decreasing and we are diagnosing people earlier. We have a pill, commonly known as PrEP, that when taken consistently can help prevent HIV infection.  Once diagnosed and connected to care, people living with HIV can lead long and vibrant lives. And science now confirms that individuals living with HIV who have an undetectable viral load are no longer able to transmit the virus to others.

In short, there is much to be joyful about even as we grapple with the challenges of our time. As Dr. Maya Angelou famously said “You may encounter many defeats, but you must not be defeated. In fact, it may be necessary to encounter the defeats, so you can know who you are, what you can rise from, how you can still come out of it.”

As we celebrate and remember on this World AIDS Day, we must take her words to heart. We will encounter these challenges, learn how to rise from them, and come out of this stronger together.

Sincerely, Tyler

CAP Awarded $50,000 To Start HIV & Aging Program

CAP is proud to announce that it has been awarded $50,000 from Gilead Sciences, Inc. to create a program to work with individuals aged 50 years and over who are living with HIV.

Kendra Castaldo, Director of Housing and Support Services

“In preparation for this grant opportunity, we conducted a survey of our existing clients aged 50 and over and we identified a need for improved age-specific services—especially around information and resource referrals,” said Kendra Castaldo, CAP’s Director of Housing and Support Services. “With this grant, we will be able to spend the next year reviewing client needs and determining what barriers exist and then build capacity in our staff to address the issues affecting this important part of our community. This is a novel program for an AIDS Service Organization and we are excited to share our findings with our peers.”

“A key component of the HIV and Aging program is CAP’s relationship with the community organization, Let’s Kick Ass Portland (LKA). This grant enables us to support LKA’s existing social gatherings and work with their existing community of long-term survivors of the HIV epidemic to gain invaluable insight about the needs of this population,” said Tyler TerMeer, CAP’s Executive Director. “Our hope and expectation is that this program and partnership with LKA will enable us to improve the quality of life for individuals aged 50 or older who are living with HIV for many years to come!”

The grant will fund CAP’s HIV and Aging Program for one year. CAP will invest additional resources to develop permanent staff capacity and produce a robust resource library for clients that will be accessible after the grant period ends.

Download the full press release here: HIV & Aging Press Release