HHS announces 2013 Ryan White funding

HHSThe Department of Health and Human Services on Tuesday announced its 2013 Ryan White funding for critical HIV/AIDS health care services and medications. A total of $594 million in Part A funding was awarded to 53 cities for medical and support services.

Dallas was awarded $ 14,324,000. Fort Worth will receive $ 3,653,145.

The Metroplex did not do as well as other comparable metropolitan areas.

Smaller cities such as Atlanta will receive $ 21,483,214, and Fort Lauderdale was awarded half a million dollars more than Dallas.

Elsewhere in Texas, Houston was awarded $19,750,043, San Antonio $4,309,561 and Austin $4,024,795. El Paso does not receive Ryan White Part A funding.

The money goes to area planning councils that divide the money among AIDS service organizations and county facilities such as Parkland Hospital.

Part B funding is awarded to states for the AIDS Drug Assistance Program. Texas will receive $83 million to ensure those with HIV who have no insurance to cover the cost of medication will receive necessary drugs. Only New York and California received more funding than Texas. This money helps people with HIV who need drug assistance throughout the state.

Part C funds are granted directly to organizations that provide comprehensive primary health care in outpatient settings to people living with HIV. In Texas, 10 providers were granted money. In Dallas, AIDS Arms will receive $315,875. The Tarrant County Health Department and Dallas County Hospital District each will receive more than $800,000.

—  David Taffet

Health officials recommend flu shots for everyone — especially those with HIV

Parkland hospital sent a news release this morning encouraging everyone to get flu shots. Dallas County health officials are noticing a higher rate of flu-related hospitalizations than last year.

Dallas County has not reached the peak of flu season so getting a vaccination can still help prevent illness. The predominant strain of flu this year is H3N2, which is more severe than last year’s H1N1 virus.

Parkland’s Chief of Infection Prevention Dr. Pranavi Sreeramoju said the best way to reduce your risk of getting the flu is by receiving the flu vaccine. He said H3N2 causes more severe illness, more hospitalizations and more complications.

The Centers for Disease Control is recommending that all people over the age of six months receive the vaccine. But groups at special risk are people over the age of 65 and people with compromised immune systems, including people with HIV.

Walgreens on the corner of Oak Lawn and Cedar Springs has flu shots available.

Resource Center Dallas’ Nelson-Tebedo Clinic is offering flu shots for $20. Call ahead to make an appointment, Monday through Saturday but not Tuesday at 214-528-2336.

—  David Taffet

Parkland hospital targets gay and bisexual men, transgender people, with HIV prevention grants

Parkland Hospital

With new grants from the state and the U.S. Centers for Disease Control, Parkland hospital is targeting those at highest risk for contracting HIV — transgender people along with gay and bisexual men — for testing.

Darrel Bell, Parkland’s program manager for HIV prevention, said it may seem like an unusual role for a hospital but fits with the system’s community primary care facilities throughout the county. Several maintain specialties in HIV care.

“We’ve gotten into the prevention arena through our positives,” Bell said.

Using social networking, Bell is bringing people in for testing. He said the program is beginning with low-hanging fruit. Using incentives, he’s encouraging the partners and close friends of existing patients to be tested.

He said Parkland already serves about 4,000 people with HIV. At least half are in the target groups of gay and bi men and transgender people.

Bell said he hears a number of objections to getting tested.

“’I thought I’d wait until I got sick,’” he said is the most common, adding that this isn’t a good idea. “Don’t wait until you burn your bridges.”

—  David Taffet

Transgender woman ticketed for using women’s restroom at Parkland hospital has criminal record

Paula Witherspoon

A transgender woman who was ticketed for using a women’s restroom at Parkland hospital last week has a criminal background and is a registered sex offender, Instant Tea has learned.

On Tuesday, we reported that 56-year-old Paula Witherspoon, of Dallas, was cited for disorderly conduct on April 25 after using a women’s restroom at Parkland, Dallas County’s public hospital.

According to the Texas Department of Public Safety, Witherspoon was convicted of sexual assault of a child involving a 14-year-old girl in 1990 and sentenced to 16 years in prison. That same year, Witherspoon was also convicted of indecency with a child by sexual contact, involving a 15-year-old girl, and sentenced to six years in prison. According to DPS, Witherspoon remains on parole for the indecency conviction.

“Yes, I have a criminal record,” Witherspoon said Wednesday. “I can’t hide that. It’s public record. I made a mistake 22 years ago that has nothing to do with this.”

Ken Upton, supervising senior staff attorney in Lambda Legal’s Dallas office, agreed.

“That may be relevant in other settings,” Upton said, “and it paints a bad picture.”

But he said there’s no evidence that in this instance, Witherspoon did anything other than use a bathroom.

“Transgender people have a right to use a bathroom,” he said.

—  David Taffet

EXCLUSIVE: Transgender woman ticketed for using women’s restroom at Parkland hospital

Paula Witherspoon

Police cited a transgender woman for disorderly conduct on April 25 for using a women’s restroom at Parkland hospital.

An officer with the hospital’s police force wrote the citation for a class-C misdemeanor after a complaint was lodged by someone who saw the transgender woman, Paula Witherspoon, leaving the bathroom.

Witherspoon said she was at the hospital with her husband, who had a follow-up appointment after suffering a heart attack.

“I live full time as a woman,” Witherspoon said.

She said hospital police told her they weren’t there to decide whether she was guilty.

“Then they wrote me a ticket,” she said.

The ticket lists Witherspoon as a man and her name as Paul. But Witherspoon provided a copy of a letter from her clinical psychologist at the Dallas VA Medical Center, Gloria J. Emmert.

“As a frequent visitor to the Dallas VA Hospital, she is expected to use facilities consistent with her external presentation, which is female,” Emmert wrote. “Please assist this Veteran by supporting the application of this ethical approach in all Dallas settings.”

Ken Upton, a supervising attorney in the Dallas office of Lambda Legal, said lewd conduct is the closest thing he could find in Section 4201 of the Texas Penal Code, the statute listed on the ticket.

For that portion of the code to apply, Upton said, Witherspoon would have had to have acted “intentionally or knowingly for a lewd purpose.” But since she went into a private stall, that’s unlikely, he said.

Witherspoon said she didn’t even know whether there was anyone else in the restroom.

“I went in, did my business, washed my hands and left,” she said.

And the letter from the psychologist indicates she was following doctor’s orders rather than acting out of lewd intent. Upton said Parkland will have trouble defending the case.

“The officer doesn’t know if anyone else was in there,” Upton said, so his testimony would be hearsay. And if the complainant wasn’t in the restroom, that person was not a witness to any lewd behavior.

Upton said the officer probably figures Witherspoon will either pay the fine or it’ll be dismissed.

“And he doesn’t care,” Upton said, adding that the officer couldn’t have written a ticket for simply using the wrong bathroom.

“That’s not a crime in Dallas,” he said.

Officials at Parkland, Dallas County’s public hospital, are looking into the incident.

“We have verified that on April, 25, 2012, Parkland Police responded to a complaint from a concerned female patient regarding her allegation that there was a male in the female restroom,” Parkland spokeswoman Charise Thomason wrote. “Because of the complexity of the issue, the incident is currently under review. Parkland strives to treat patients, visitors and staff with dignity and respect, as well as provide a safe environment at all times.”

Roberto de la Cruz, an openly gay member of Parkland’s Board of Managers, said he plans to meet with Witherspoon on Wednesday at her home. He said his concern is that transgender people are welcome at Parkland and will be treated with dignity.

After the jump is a copy of the letter from Dr. Emmert, as well as Witherspoon’s ticket.

—  David Taffet

Some HIV providers stop taking Medicare patients

Other local doctors say they’ll follow suit if Congress goes through with  reductions in reimbursement rate

Vasquez.Jaime

Dr. Jaime Vasquez

DAVID TAFFET  |  Staff Writer

Some doctors have opted out of the Medicare system because Congress has threatened to cut reimbursement payments.

Bob Hutchison, 58, has HIV and is disabled from injuries he sustained on the job. He said his HIV is under control, but he needs care for his disability. He receives social security and recently qualified for Medicare. But he can’t find a doctor who’ll treat him.

The Trinity Health and Wellness Clinic can treat Hutchison for his HIV. But the facility isn’t equipped to deal with his other conditions unrelated to the virus.

Last year, Congress proposed cutting Medicare payments by almost 30 percent. A current proposal would cut payments by 27.4 percent.

Some doctors say they were already losing money on Medicare patients, but with the additional cuts they won’t be able to pay their staffs.

Trinity referred Hutchison to Parkland hospital to treat his injuries from a broken back.
But Hutchison lives in Rockwall, which has no public hospital and where residents aren’t eligible for free or sliding scale treatment at the Dallas facility.

Hutchison qualified for Medicare because of his disability. That program, known primarily for covering medical costs for people over 65, also covers the disabled.

And unlike patients using private insurance who can go out of network, pay higher rates and bill the provider themselves, Medicare users must use a doctor that accepts the program. An individual cannot choose to pay the doctor in full and then bill the government for reimbursement, even at the lower rate.

Not all Oak Lawn physicians will take new patients on Medicare. What was uniform at their offices this week was a long pause and sigh when asked about the program.

“We’re only taking Medicare from existing patients if they transfer over,” said Rick Porter, a spokesman for Dr. Steven Pounders’ office.
Pounders also has contracted with three Medicare HMOs. He said that as good as one of those plans that his office accepts is, Baylor Hospital doesn’t take it, presenting those patients with another problem.

Porter said an additional problem is that unless a patient with HIV on Medicare has a good Part D prescription plan, it’s hard to switch medications. And if the patient has to change drugs during the year, a plan that covered an existing regimen may not cover the new treatment.

Dr. Jaime Vasquez also continues seeing existing patients who have converted from private insurance to Medicare. New patients on Medicare are accepted on a case-by-case basis.

“We’re keeping a quota,” his office manager said.

She said Vasquez’s office simply can’t afford to take many additional patients with the minimal payment Medicare provides for services — which Congress is threatening to cut further.

According to the Texas Medical Association, almost half of Texas physicians are considering opting out of Medicare altogether.

Although the proposed cut in payments for 2012 hasn’t gone into effect yet as Congress remains deadlocked on this and other issues, the number of doctors accepting new patients on Medicare continues to decline.

Orthopedic surgeon Diane Litke still accepts new patients on Medicare, but she said many of her patients see her for an injury and not for long-term care. But she sided with doctors who have stopped accepting the coverage.

“I think Congress should take a 30 percent pay cut,” she said. “As soon as they cut it [Medicare], I’m going to drop it.”

Part of the problem is the uncertainty. Each year, Congress threatens to cut Medicare payments. Payments usually remain frozen.

This year, the cuts were part of a bill that recently passed extending the payroll tax cut. Before the bill passed, Medicare payment to doctors was stripped from the legislation, and so reimbursement rates remain up in the air.

Although some local doctor’s offices said they aren’t taking new patients on Medicare, some said they are.

At least three local practices with HIV specialties are accepting new Medicare patients: Uptown Physicians; Dr. Nick Bellos, who recently returned his business to Oak Lawn; and Dr. Patrick Daly.

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition February 24, 2012.

—  Kevin Thomas

Wait time for Amelia Court appointments questioned

ASOs strive to see more clients more quickly but, Parkland patients continue to wait months

Nobles1

Raeline Nobles

DAVID TAFFET  |  Staff Writer
taffet@dallasvoice.com

Over the past year, the wait time to get an appointment at Parkland hospital’s Amelia Court appears to have gotten longer, although the staffing level appears to be about the same now as a year ago.

During that same time, community-based AIDS agencies in Dallas say they have expanded services and decreased wait times.

For new Parkland patients, the time from first contact to seeing a doctor can be as short as two weeks. But new patients trying to access services at the public clinic recently have reported waits of as long as four months.

Candace White, Parkland media spokeswoman, said that the clinic is taking new patient appointments as early as February and through March 1. She said she confirmed that with Sylvia Moreno, the hospital’s director of HIV services.

White attributed the delay to an increase in the number of patients accessing the clinic’s services due to successful HIV testing efforts throughout Dallas County. Some of the longer wait times quoted over the past few weeks may have been due to the holiday, she said.

However, when a Dallas Voice staff member called Amelia Court on Tuesday, Jan. 10, to make an appointment, he was transferred to voicemail to leave a message. As of deadline time on Thursday, Jan. 12, more than two days later, no one from the clinic had returned the call.

Another caller to Amelia Court was told that those February and March appointments White cited are reserved for established patients only. The next available appointment for first intake for new clients who want access to Amelia Court is April 23, the caller was told.

The Ryan White CARE Act, which funds many of the treatment programs for persons with HIV, specifies patients must receive “access to care within three weeks of presenting,” Dr. Gary Sinclair, former medical director of Amelia Court, said.

While he was at Amelia Court, Sinclair said that he and his staff reduced the waiting time to access medical care to two weeks. He left UT Southwestern and Parkland two years ago and is now an independent consultant involved in covering for physicians for Ryan White programs.

For years, all Parkland primary AIDS care was done at Amelia Court, located on Harry Hines Boulevard, a block from the main hospital. However, to relieve overcrowding at Amelia Court, doctors with experience in treating people with the virus have been seeing patients at three of the hospital’s Community Oriented Primary Care facilities in Dallas.

Parkland began opening the COPCs in 1987 to relieve its main emergency room of treating non-emergency cases.

The clinics were designed to provide convenient and affordable healthcare throughout Dallas County.

Parkland

HIGH RISE CLINIC | Amelia Court’s HIV services will move to the new Parkland Hospital under construction across Harry Hines Boulevard from the old facility. (DavidTaffet/Dallas Voice)

Some of the facilities also have specialties. Two clinics — Bluitt-Flowers Health Center in South Dallas and Southeast Dallas Health Center in Pleasant Grove — were designated as HIV treatment sites.

A third — deHaro-Saldivar Health Center in Oak Cliff — previously treated adolescents and young adults with HIV, but that service has been discontinued.

Parkland’s clinic has been staffed at about the same level for the past several years.

But as HIV has changed to a manageable chronic illness, Sinclair said that there has been “a normalization of care.”

That normalization may include longer waiting times for appointments at the public hospital, something that is common in other specializations.

But while Parkland strives to keep the wait time for primary care down, some local agencies that provide clinical service to people with HIV at low or no cost say they have expanded their service and will see new patients quickly.

“On a very human level, it can be quite terrifying to want and need medical care and not be able to find it,” AIDS Arms Executive Director Raeline Nobles said. “AIDS Arms built its second HIV clinic to help with these exact problems in significant and positive ways.”

The agency opened Trinity Health & Wellness Clinic in Oak Cliff this past fall and continues operating Peabody Health Center in South Dallas. Both offer full primary care for people with HIV.

AIDS Arms accepts Medicare and Medicaid as well as private health insurance. And like the county hospital, medical care is free for low-income people without any coverage and is provided on a sliding-scale for others.

Intake takes about a week to complete, Nobles said. Once a person who has an HIV-positive diagnosis is registered as a client, doctors at Trinity Clinic can see a new patient that week.

“With fast access to medical appointments at our Trinity and Peabody clinics and five licensed providers, we are a partner in the solution to very large and disturbing access to care problems in our community,” Nobles said.

The agency is seeking to expand the services it offers its patients and is currently looking for specialists in ophthalmology, cardiology and renal care to supplement its care.

In addition, AIDS Arms is involved in drug research trials, something Amelia Court no longer does.

Sinclair said he believed that was part of a shift in federal research dollars away from “’How do we treat people?’ to ‘How do we eliminate the epidemic?’”

In addition, AIDS Arms is offering several new services to its patients at its Trinity clinic.

Legal Hospice of Texas will soon begin providing on-site legal assistance for disability, social security and HIV-related discrimination issues. Bryan’s House will be providing free childcare for patients visiting the clinic on Thursday and Fridays beginning next week. And once a week, onsite psychotherapy services will be offered.

Resource Center Dallas offers a variety of specialized medical services at its Nelson-Tebedo Community Clinic on Cedar Springs Road. Dental care is the most frequently accessed and something not provided by other agencies or Parkland.

With a recent expansion of facilities at the clinic, RCD Communications and Advocacy Manager Rafael McDonnell said the wait time for an appointment is three weeks or less. He said the clinic is able to treat emergencies even more quickly.

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition January 13, 2012.

—  Kevin Thomas

For the 4th time in 2 months, a pedestrian was struck last week on the Cedar Springs strip

A 72-year-old pedestrian was struck in the crosswalk on Cedar Springs Road at Knight Street at about 6:30 p.m. on Dec. 22. He was taken to Parkland Hospital and released on Christmas Day.

Lyle Bainbridge said he was crossing the street in the crosswalk and vehicles had stopped in both directions, when a motorist sped around the stopped vehicles and hit him.

He said he was thrown and his head landed in the gutter just inches from the car that hit him.

The driver of that vehicle stopped and told Bainbridge that he was delivering pizzas and was on his cell phone talking to the owner of his store. Bainbridge said the man was apologetic and in tears when he got out of his car.

Bainbridge has a broken collar bone. Doctors detected heart defibrillation problems that may have been a result of the accident. He said he had not been diagnosed previously with heart problems.

Bainbridge, who is from California, is in Dallas for the holidays house-sitting for a friend.

This is the fourth time a pedestrian has been hit on Cedar Springs Road in two months and the third time near this same location.

On Nov. 25, Edward Lee King, 61, was struck by a driver and killed crossing Cedar Springs Knight Street. Wayne Priest, 55, was killed by a hit-and-run driver near Cedar Springs and Reagan Street on Nov. 3.

A 10-year-old girl was hit on Dec. 10 near Knight Street. Her injuries were not life-threatening.

After the earlier accidents, Councilwoman Angela Hunt asked city staff to looks at ways to make the area safer for pedestrians.

Bainbridge said he wanted to call awareness to his accident to push the city to take action. He said that there should be stop signs at the intersection if not traffic lights.

“It takes something drastic happening before they’ll do something,” he said.

When he learned about the previous accidents at the intersection, he said he wondered how many more people will be hit before the city makes safety in this area a priority.

It was unclear whether the driver who hit Bainbridge received a citation. Sr. Cpl. Melinda Gutierrez, a spokeswoman for the Dallas Police Department, said an accident report was not yet available.

—  David Taffet

Jenkins takes home Stonewall’s Pink Pump

County judge among officials, members honored at Democratic group’s annual Holiday Party

AND THE WINNER IS  |  Dallas County Judge Clay Jenkins accepts the Pink Pump Award — which consists of a bedazzled pink high-heel shoe — during Stonewall Democrats’ Holiday Party on Monday, Dec. 5 at Sue Ellen’s. (John Wright/Dallas Voice)

AND THE WINNER IS | Dallas County Judge Clay Jenkins accepts the Pink Pump Award — which consists of a bedazzled pink high-heel shoe — during Stonewall Democrats’ Holiday Party on Monday, Dec. 5 at Sue Ellen’s. (John Wright/Dallas Voice)

CLICK HERE TO VIEW MORE PHOTOS FROM THE PARTY

JOHN WRIGHT  |  Senior Political Writer
wright@dallasvoice.com

Nearly two years ago, in a controversial move, Stonewall Democrats of Dallas endorsed Larry Duncan for county judge over establishment-backed candidate Clay Jenkins and openly gay incumbent Jim Foster.

On Monday, Dec. 5, Stonewall Democrats presented Jenkins — who defeated Duncan and Foster in the 2010 primary before winning the general election — with the group’s coveted Pink Pump Award, which honors a straight ally who’s gone above and beyond on behalf of the LGBT community.

Stonewall President Omar Narvaez said regardless of the decision to endorse Duncan, Jenkins has been very open to working with the group. Stonewall’s board tapped Jenkins, who chairs the Commissioners Court, for the Pink Pump primarily due to his role in adding sexual orientation — and later gender identity and expression — to the county’s employment nondiscrimination policy this year.

“That’s a huge deal,” Narvaez said. “We’re the only county in the entire state of Texas that has a fully inclusive nondiscrimination policy for its employees. … So much has happened — a lot of stuff that never would have happened under our last county judge, who was a member of the [LGBT] community.”

Also this year, Parkland hospital’s Board of Managers — appointed by the Commissioners Court — added domestic partner benefits for the facility’s 9,400 employees. And, although the county didn’t add DP benefits for its own workers due to budget constraints, Jenkins has said he’ll push to do so next year.

“The good part is, at least it’s come up,” Narvaez said. “It’s something that we can work toward now.”

Jenkins beat out Dallas City Councilwoman Monica Alonzo and Stonewall member Gillian Parillo to take home the Pink Pump, which comes in the form of a bedazzled pink high-heeled shoe.

The county judge was on hand at Stonewall’s Holiday Party to accept the shoe, despite undergoing surgery earlier in the day to have screws removed from his leg.

Jenkins was walking with a cane and, unlike at least one past recipient, unable to try on the Pink Pump. As he took the stage in the Vixin Lounge at Sue Ellen’s, he held up a plastic biohazard bag containing the screws — the remnants of a nasty fall he took on the ice in February.

“There is a strength in our diversity and a common bond in our shared values here in Dallas County,” Jenkins said later. “Stonewall exemplifies that strength through promoting human rights, protecting public health, registering voters and fostering leaders. I’m honored to accept this year ‘Pink Pump’ and committed to building a stronger, more progressive Dallas County.”

Jenkins was one of several elected officials and Stonewall members honored during the party, which was moved from the Round-Up Saloon this year. Narvaez said the party saw its second-highest attendance ever — behind 2008 — and raised almost four times as much as in any previous year.

The increased fundraising was due to the sale of individual sponsorships, as well as proceeds from the auctioning of lunches with elected officials. Lunch with Jenkins’ counterpart on the Commissioners Court, longtime LGBT ally Dr. Elba Garcia, went for $400. Lunch with Judge Tena Callahan, who handed down a landmark ruling in a gay divorce case in 2008, went for $300. And lunch with lesbian Sheriff Lupe Valdez, up for re-election in 2012, brought two matching bids of $400 each.

Alonzo, who was elected to represent District 6 on the council this year, read a proclamation from the city recognizing Stonewall Democrats, which celebrated its 15th anniversary in October. Attendees at the Holiday Party also heard from Gilberto Hinojosa, a candidate to replace Boyd Richie, who’s retiring as chairman of the Texas Democratic Party.

Hinojosa, already endorsed by the statewide chapter of Stonewall Democrats, predicted that in 2012, Texas will “move much closer to turning blue.” Thanks to new redistricting maps, Democrats could pick up anywhere from three to six congressional districts in Texas, and up to 15 seats in the state House, he said.

Demographically, Democratic groups account for 70 percent of voters in Texas, Hinojosa said.

“There are more of us than there are of them,” he told the group. “We’re not winning because we’re not getting our base out.”

Hinojosa also touched on the State Democratic Executive Committee’s recent decision not to put a nonbinding resolution in support of same-sex marriage on the 2012 primary ballot. Although he isn’t a voting member of the SDEC, Hinojosa said he spoke in support of placing the resolution on the ballot before the vote during last month’s meeting.

“It’s an issue the party needed to take a stand on,” he said. “We lost on that issue, but there will be time to bring it back again.”

……………………….

Stonewall Democrats 2011 Award Winners

Pink Pump: Clay Jenkins
Harryette Ehrhardt Distinguished Democrat: Lorraine Raggio
Buck Massey Member of the Year: Clinton Swingle
Ally of the Year: Cathedral of Hope
Christy Kinsler Board Member of the Year: Travis Gasper

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition December 9, 2011.

—  Michael Stephens

Hess marks 25 years with RCD

Co-workers call him the steadying force, the quiet authority and the keeper of institutional knowledge

A QUARTER CENTURY  |  Craig Hess was Resource Center Dallas’ second employee when he started 25 years ago. (David Taffet/Dallas Voice)

A QUARTER CENTURY | Craig Hess was Resource Center Dallas’ second employee when he started 25 years ago. (David Taffet/Dallas Voice)

DAVID TAFFET  |  Staff Writer
taffet@dallasvoice.com

Craig Hess marked his 25th anniversary as an employee of Resource Center Dallas appropriately enough on World AIDS Day, Dec. 1.

To put that amount of time in perspective, World AIDS Day dates back only 23 years.

Currently, Hess is the insurance assistance coordinator at RCD. When he was hired in 1986, he started as the volunteer coordinator.

Hess was the second person hired by the organization — after community educator Mike Richards and before the agency’s first executive director, John Thomas. Hess said three people were hired that day.
“When I took the job, it was temporary — six months and they’ll find a cure,” he said. “This has been the longest temporary job I ever had.”

RCD Communications and Advocacy Manager Rafael McDonnell called Hess “a living history book” and “the keeper of institutional knowledge” for the agency. He said that Hess is a steadying force at the center and is treated with a great deal of respect.

“He’s the quiet authority,” McDonnell said.

Hess describes himself a little differently.

“I’m the voice of reason among the insanity,” he said.

Hess said he’s amazed at what Resource Center Dallas has become.

In the beginning, he said, “This was as grassroots as it could be. And now we’re a United Way agency. Government funding? We never thought of that back then.”

He recounted how the insurance program he heads got started in the late 1990s. Dallas County helped Resource Center Dallas make COBRA payments for its clients. At the time, Parkland Hospital estimated that the $60,000 in insurance payments it funded saved the county more than $6 million.

“Now it’s more like $100 million saved,” Hess said.

Hess said his background is in accounting.

“I like doing it because it’s very exacting,” he said. “There’s no leeway. It’s very organized. This is extreme accounting.”

He called his job the one no one else wants to do.

RCD Executive Director and CEO Cece Cox was among the agency’s staff who heaped praise on Hess.

“When I first met Craig, he wore a different pair of high tops everyday and drove a Cadillac convertible,” Cox said. “He’s always had his own style and there’s something to be said for that.”

But her admiration for him was apparent.

“He’s given 25 years of service to this community,” she said. “He’s dedicated his life to that service.”

Cox said that she gets letters from clients about how much Hess has helped them.

“With this job comes many complaints,” she said. “To have a client take the time to send a letter of gratitude catches my attention.”

But she said to get letters about him repeatedly is a testament to his value to the organization and its clients.

Client Services Manager Jennifer Hurn said it struck her when Hess remarked that the names on the buildings are real people to him.

“Most of us here now can’t say that,” she said.

Hess agreed and was more comfortable talking about the many other people who helped build the center than about his own accomplishments.

He mentioned Bill Hunt who helped create the Food Pantry and the hot meals program that he dubbed “Chez Louise.”

“Bill wanted lunch served on china because it was about dignity,” he said. “Social, not institutional.”

And Hess has taken that lesson to heart. He explained why he’s devoted his life to RCD’s clients.

“I could be any one of the clients,” he said. “If this happened to me, how would I want people to treat me?”

So how long can clients count on him to continue doing his temporary job?

“I’m there till it’s over,” he said.

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition December 9, 2011.

—  Michael Stephens