Office of Minority Health and Options: A Benefits Training Foundation Launch Program to Improve Access to HIV/AIDS Healthcare and Health Coverage in Minority Communities

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June 1st marks the launch of an innovative program that will train providers of people living with HIV/AIDS in health benefits coverage. This program, beginning in Louisiana and three western states and to be rolled out nationally, will dramatically improve the lives of people living with HIV/AIDS by helping to connect them with the income and health benefits coverage they may not be have enough knowledge to access.

Options: A Benefits Training Foundation (Options) today announced it has been awarded a grant by the Office of Minority Health to deliver a three-year health and income benefits training program for community-based organizations working with the HIV/AIDS populations in Arizona, Hawaii, Louisiana, New Mexico, and Southern California. By the end of the program in August 2007, 112 service providers in community-based organizations and 40 individuals will have developed basic, advanced, and “train the trainer” levels of information and skills spanning both public and private benefits. As each service provider works with about 50 clients, this program will positively impact the lives of many thousands of disabled individuals.

Although according to the 2000 Census African Americans make up 12.3% of the U.S. population, they have accounted for 39% of the more than 886,000 estimated AIDS cases diagnosed since the beginning of the epidemic – almost 350,000 cases. Hispanics and Latinos represented 13% of the U.S. population (including residents of Puerto Rico), but they accounted for 19% of the total number of new U.S. AIDS cases. The objective of the Public Health Service’s “Healthy People 2010” initiative is to eliminate these disparities in minority health care and health coverage nationwide. This three-year program will be run by Options, one of the leading providers of health and welfare benefits training programs in the U.S., and will directly support organizations that serve minorities in the HIV/AIDS community. The program will enable these organizations to offer increased patient knowledge on how to best access care; to support increased outreach efforts; and to provide direct education to individuals with HIV/AIDS.

Since training on health and income benefits planning services is not included in social work degree programs, very few benefits counselors, social workers, or other service providers understand the full range of public and private benefits available to individuals living with HIV/AIDS. The people they serve are at risk of extreme financial hardship that could be prevented through comprehensive benefits counseling. Access to all the coverage available to them can make a crucial difference in their condition.

“This program will help service providers better understand the full range of public and private benefits available to their clients at all stages of disability, from those newly diagnosed with HIV/AIDS to those working with HIV/AIDS or starting or returning to work,” .said Daniel Fortuño, Executive Director of Options. “An additional benefit of the program is that it will provide up-to-date training to service providers on the new Medicare program – in particular the new Part D Prescription Benefits that will take effect at the beginning of 2006.”

The program consists of a three-day training for service providers, a one evening training for individual clients, and continuing education through quarterly conference calls to ensure service providers receive ongoing support as they put the information learned at the training into practice. The first training will take place in Houma, Louisiana on June 1–3, followed by Gallup, New Mexico on June 20-22, Los Angeles, California on June 27-29, and Volcano, Hawaii on July 28-29.

About Options:

Options is a registered California 501(c)(3) non-profit organization, incorporated in 2000, whose mission is “to improve the quality of life for people with disabilities”. The organization accomplishes this through innovative, affordable health and welfare educational programs for community-based organizations. These programs address each stage of disability, including how to access services in order to meet basic needs from healthcare to housing, and creating opportunities for employment. By the end of 2004 Options had trained over 1000 individuals from 144 organizations in 14 US states. Since each individual works with approximately 50 disabled clients, their services ultimately benefit approximately 60,000 disabled people each year. Their programs also enable community-based organizations to become more efficient with program dollars and staff resources, and be better prepared to assist more clients.

For more information, please visit http://www.optionsfoundation.org, or contact:

Lauri Shay

Program Manager

Options: A Benefits Training Foundation

415 398 2170 Phone

415 398 2179 Fax

lshay@optionsfoundation.org

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Jerry Franklin
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