Local ASOs respond to disability proposals

New guidelines are more specific but would require qualifying for benefits every three years

DAVID TAFFET  |  Staff Writer taffet@dallasvoice.com

Bret Camp
Bret Camp

The Institute of Medicine has published recommendations that would change guidelines for people living with HIV to apply for Social Security disability.

Bret Camp, Resource Center Dallas’ associate executive director for health and medical services, said the recommendations are a starting point for discussions about changing those qualifications.

To qualify, the institute recommended that a person’s T-cell count would have to be less than 50. Currently, a count of 200 or lower is generally needed to qualify.

The other major change is that persons qualifying after new rules take effect would have to requalify every three years. Currently, disability payments are for life.

Certain AIDS-related illnesses would qualify someone for disability payments no matter what the CD4-cell count is. Wasting syndrome, for example, would impair a person’s ability to function, the Institute of Medicine report said. Dementia, AIDS-related cancers, heart disease or hepatitis are other conditions they list that would qualify a person for disability payments.

“These seem fairly reasonable to me,” said AIDS Arms Executive Director Raeline Nobles. “Perhaps I would consider a CD4 of 100 rather than 50 — 50 does seem very low and indicates rather extreme health vulnerability.”

She said that by the time someone has a CD4 cell count of 50, chances are they have already experienced an opportunistic infection.

“However, current treatment, if ongoing and proactive and of high quality, does do miraculous things these days even for people with CD4s who drop well below 50,” she said.

“The Social Security Administration is beginning to revise the listing criteria for every condition starting with HIV,” Camp said. “Reevaluation has always been a goal for SSA.”

He said that because of strides in treatment of HIV over the last 15 years, this was a good place to start.

Current guidelines are not as specific, he said. Camp said he likes the specific enumeration of certain AIDS-related cancers and other infections.

He said he has worked with people who have been denied benefits with a CD4 cell count of 200 and seen people with a higher count receive them.

Nobles worried about compromising access to treatment because disability status impacts Medicare eligibility.

“That would be disastrous,” she said. “Sure, HIV treatment has come a long way — for those who have ongoing access to that treatment administered by specialists in the field. And therein lies the problem.”

Nobles is also worried about unforeseen problems with the changes.

“Often governmental entities seem to forget that a change in one area ripples throughout the entire system of care and support and has ramifications they should have thought about, but didn’t until it’s too late and significant issues/problems emerge,” she said.

Steve Dutton, executive director of Samaritan House in Fort Worth, said the proposed changes don’t surprise him.

“It’s going to be tough,” he said.

Dutton said he likes the addition of certain specific categories that qualify people for disability but worries about those who don’t quite fit into those categories.

“I hope there are still some gray areas,” he said.

Dutton also wondered about the motive.

“They’ll look for every opportunity to minimize the number of people covered,” he said.

He agreed that those who manage their disease well can go back to work without further need for disability payments.

But he worries about those who became ill and are too sick toward the end of the three-year period to go through the bureaucratic paperwork to qualify again.

For more on the report go online to iom.edu/Reports/2010/HIV-and-Disability-Updating-the-Social-Security-Listings.aspx

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition October 08, 2010.

—  Kevin Thomas

Red Mango franchise donates equipment to RCD

‘Quality used kitchen equipment and appliances’ will be used for center’s hot meals program, officials say

From Staff Reports

Bret Camp
Bret Camp

Officials at Resource Center Dallas announced last week that the agency has received “a sizable donation of quality used kitchen equipment and appliances” from the local franchisee for Red Mango yogurt.

The equipment will primarily be used to support the center’s weekday hot lunch program for people living with HIV/AIDS.

The equipment includes three stainless steel under-counter refrigerators, a double-door stainless steel freezer, an iced tea/coffee brewer, a refrigerated deli display case, a countertop convection oven, a couple of ice cream dipping cabinets and three stainless steel trash cans.

Officials said the refrigerators, freezer, tea/coffee brewer and trash cans were put to immediate use in the meals program.

Since the early 1990s, the center’s hot meals program serves a lunch to more than 100 HIV-positive clients each Monday through Friday.
Bret Camp, associate executive director for health and medical services at the center, said, “This generous donation from Red Mango will allow the meals program to easily store perishables and supplies for our lunches, and increase our ability to accept donations of perishable food products.

“We’re always grateful when businesses in our community support the center’s programs,” he added.

The franchise holder for the Dallas-area Red Mango stores, Bill Chinn, acquired the equipment when he took over a former restaurant space for a store location. The equipment had been in storage when the manager of the Red Mango at the Ilume on Cedar Springs read about the center’s “Hell Freezes Over” fundraiser to buy a new ice machine, and he suggested that the equipment could be put to use in the center’s hot meals program.

The Red Mango at Ilume also has a donation box in the store for the center, and so far has collected more than $400 for Center programs and services.

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition August 27, 2010.

—  Kevin Thomas

Local briefs • 08.20.10

WRCC hosts ‘Sunday Show’

The White Rock Community Church Choir and Drama Ministry will present “The Sunday Show,” an old-fashioned radio show featuring interviews with “widows” from the Bible embellished with original songs, on Sunday. Aug. 29, at the church’s regular 10:45 a.m. service.

The program used catchy rhythms and talk show-style dialog to give the audience a new understanding of remarkable women from biblical times.

White Rock Community Church is located at 9353 Garland Road in Dallas. For more information call 214-320-0043 or go online to WhiteRockChurch.org.

Yoga of the Breath begins Aug. 27

The next Yoga of the Breath course for People Living with HIV begins Friday Aug, 27 and is open to everyone living with HIV, which includes caregivers, partners and other family members of people with HIV.

The program is free of charge, and will be held at Pride Pharmacy, 2929 Carlisle St. in Dallas. Meals and transportation are provided.
For more information call 469-212-3797.

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition August 20, 2010.

—  Michael Stephens

LSR: It takes everyone’s effort to succeed

Brian Franklin Team Blazing Saddles

Brian Franklin

Push, push, push! Pedal for your life!

Well, that’s definitely the way it feels at times along the two-day, 150-mile bike ride across the Metroplex that is Lone Star Ride.

Last year was my second year to time in Lone Star Ride, and I didn’t have a doubt that I would be riding again this year, the 10th anniversary of the ride.

I first heard of LSR when my friend, Patrick Burton, told me he was riding and that I should come out to support him and share in the event.

I had been cycling for about a year and I had participated in other organized rides, so I thought I would check it out. I drove out to Glen Rose, which is where the overnight camp was in 2007, and quickly realized that this was not like any other ride I had ever experienced.

I knew the next day that I wanted to get involved in this event. In 2008, team Blazing Saddles was formed and it included myself and a small group of friends.

As a regular reader of the Dallas Voice, you already know that LSR brings people from across the community together for a common purpose. LSR is about raising money for local organizations that supply life-changing support to people living with HIV/AIDS and to raise awareness of HIV/AIDS.

LSR is a two-day ride, but a team of people works year-round to make it the best ride it possibly can be for those that participate.

I have always been a rider, but many people participate as support crew. The LSR support crew is the best I have seen. These dedicated people work tirelessly behind the scenes and on the front lines to make it the best ride around.

The new ride route forms a figure eight across the Metroplex and features pit stops about every 10 miles. It is always exciting to ride into the next pit stop to see what crazy costumes the crew members are wearing. We saw everything from poly-blend pant suits at a disco-themed pit stop to a trailer park scene that seemed to be right off the set of “Sordid Lives.”

By the time we ride into the lunch pit stop, I am always looking forward to visiting the massage crew. They do a great job of getting the legs ready for the second half of the day.

The long day of riding makes for a big sense of accomplishment when we ride into camp at the end of day one. Rest and relaxation is all that’s required the rest of the day. Everyone comes together for dinner, entertainment and to share stories from the ride.

The morning of day two comes all too early, but a big cup of coffee, breakfast and some ibuprofen are just enough to get back on the bike.

The motor crews are a personal favorite of mine as they help direct us along the route, cheer for us and sweep us up if we need a break. It is the hard work of all the dedicated people that make up the various support crews that make the long ride fun and enjoyable.

Another thing that sets LSR apart from other rides I have participated in is the closeness of everyone involved. Becoming a part of LSR is becoming part of a large, extended family. Sure, there will be heat, head winds, hills, sore muscles and perhaps rain, but there is also beautiful scenery, good company and lots of great memories.

The ride concludes with all the cyclists riding in together to the closing ceremonies. The closing ceremonies are especially memorable and by the end I always realize that the fatigue and soreness is far outweighed by the sense of accomplishment that everyone who is part of LSR has achieved.

Nothing worthwhile is ever easy, but who says it can’t be fun? It is rewarding knowing I am making a difference, knowing that others are directly benefiting from something I love to do.

As captain of team Blazing Saddles, I am proud that our team has raised more than $20,000 for LSR in just two years. Blazing Saddles is still a small team and we hope to increase our numbers. You can help.

You don’t have to be a seasoned cyclist. You just need a bike, a helmet, some good padded shorts and a good sense of humor.


To donate to Brian Franklin and Team Blazing Saddles, go online to LoneStarRide.org.

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition July 23, 2010.

—  Kevin Thomas

ASOs pleased with Obama’s AIDS strategy

Service providers are optimistic about holistic approach, but want to see the money to back up plan

DAVID TAFFET | Staff Writer taffet@dallasvoice.com

Raeline Nobles

The White House’s new National AIDS Strategy, released July 13, is getting good reviews from AIDS service organizations in North Texas.

The policy includes plans on how to reduce new infections, how to increase access to health care and how to improve the outcome for people living with HIV. It takes a holistic approach to AIDS, bringing resources from around the community together and recognizing the need for transportation, food and housing as well as medical treatment.

Its goals also include eliminating the stigma still attached to HIV/AIDS.

“This White House is more systemic,” said Raeline Nobles, executive director of AIDS Arms. “[They know that] when one part of the system is weak, the entire system breaks down. You have to reach out into the greater community.”

Nobles noted the focus on reducing the infection rate by 25 percent.

“I think the strategy is very aggressive,” she said. “A 25 percent drop is a huge drop.”

Still, she wondered how the plan would be funded.

“Healthcare reform will provide some answers, but not until 2014 and that’s a long time in the middle of an epidemic,” she said.

Steven Pace, executive director of AIDS Interfaith Network, said “What I hope emerges is renewed outreach and prevention because those were so destroyed under the Bush administration.”

And Don Maison, president and CEO of AIDS services of Dallas commended the plan’s “recognition of the importance of housing for overall health. … Housing has the attention of policymakers and is included for the first time.”

Maison attended a White House meeting in December with Jeffrey S. Crowley, director of the Office of National AIDS Policy. Four assistants to the president, officials from HUD and the Health Resources and Services Administration also attended.

When Maison read how their concerns were addressed in the strategy, he said he was delighted they were listening.

Nobles also was impressed with the process by which the administration put the strategy together.

She said that at least once every other week she received an e-mail asking her opinion.

Steve Dutton, executive director of Samaritan House in Fort Worth, pointed out three things he especially liked about the strategy.

“It’s important that housing is integrated into the plan,” he said. “I like the call to educating all Americans about the disease. And prevention is more than just condoms.”

He said this was the first administration that gathered information from experts and used that to formulate a strategy. He said he was impressed by the call for federal agencies to work closely with local agencies.

Like other agency directors, Dutton worried about funding.

He said the president made it clear in his executive summary of the document that this is not a budget document.

“But it clearly establishes national priorities,” Dutton said. “That’s very impressive. It’s been a long time since leadership asked people on the street, ‘What do you think?’”

Bret Camp from Nelson Tebedo Clinic was cautiously optimistic.

“It’s good that we finally have a plan,” he said. “I would like to see money behind it.”

Camp liked the idea of collaboration among faith-based groups, government agencies, the medical community and service organizations.

“That makes the continuum of prevention services seamless,” he said.

Camp pointed to the Stomp Out Syphilis program at Resource Center Dallas that works well with faith-based organizations throughout the community.
“The state holds that program up as a model,” he said.

Allan Gould, executive director of AIDS Outreach Center in Fort Worth, said the plan had the right goals for halting the spread of HIV. He said that over the last five to 10 years, most people acted as though the AIDS epidemic was over, but, “AIDS is still a huge problem.”

Gould said that the two things to watch are how the plan is implemented and where the money is coming from. The federal government funds Tarrant County and other areas with fewer than 2,000 cases of AIDS differently than cities like Dallas with more people infected with HIV.

“Small agencies will close,” Gould said.

But his reading of the strategy is that it is a fresh approach.

“It’s a health issue, not a moral issue,” he said. “The plan takes a holistic approach.”

He said the president sounded pragmatic when he announced the strategy, admitting he didn’t have all the answers.

Gould said that for the first time, ASOs wouldn’t have to wait for a change in administration to get rid of a policy or an approach that isn’t working.
But Gould laughed at one of the main goals — to reduce the stigma of AIDS.

He said you can’t tell people how to think, but he thought it was better to have that as policy than not.

Getting the prevention message out there once again, Gould said, was among the most important pieces of the new plan.

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition July 23, 2010.

—  Michael Stephens