CITIZENS TAKE ACTION AT FIRST EVER HEP C DAY ON THE HILL

Posted on by Joy Mosenfelder

In the midst of the opioid crisis, another, closely-related but often overlooked epidemic is quietly taking its toll. Hepatitis C, a blood-borne, viral infection that attacks the liver and can live in the body undetected for years, is on the rise among young, injection drug users. There are more than 100,000 confirmed cases of Hepatitis C here in Massachusetts, however, with an estimated 60-70% of infected individuals unaware of their status, most experts agree the actual number is much higher. Now, more than ever, increasing funding for testing and surveillance services is critically important.

On Wednesday, April 11, 2018, EndHepCMA, a statewide coalition of organizations, providers, advocates and consumers, worked with Senator Mark Montigny to organize a first-of-its-kind education and advocacy day at the Massachusetts State House to connect concerned citizens with their legislators to discuss policy related to better addressing Hepatitis C. More than 75 people attended a speaking program featuring EndHepCMA Coalition Coordinator, Richard Baker; Citizen Advocate and Boston Living Center Program Director, Larry Day; and Massachusetts Department of Public Health Epidemiologist, Dan Church on the current state of Hepatitis C here in the commonwealth. Staff from the offices of Senator Sal DiDomenico, Senator John Keenan, and event co-sponsor Senator Mark Montigny, as well as Representative William Crocker, Representative William Galvin, Representative Stephen Hay, Representative Kay Khan, Representative Jack Lewis, Representative Jeffery Sánchez, and Representative Theodore Speliotis. After the speaking program, attendees were encouraged to visit the offices of their regional representatives to share support for maintaining funding for Hepatitis C prevention, education, and treatment.

Advocates were pleased to learn that the Massachusetts House Ways and Means Committee has approved level funding at $30.8 million for fiscal year 2018, however, truly turning the tide on the epidemic will require additional resources for tracking new infections, educating the public about risk factors, and increasing prevention services and treatment access in the communities where it matters most. Hepatitis C, untreated, can be deadly, claiming more lives than the next 60 infectious diseases combined each year. With proper diagnosis and treatment, however, the disease is curable and dedicating resources towards preventing new infections could eventually eliminate the disease entirely.

For more information about the EndHepCMA Coalition please visit: www.vpi.org/endhepcma

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Hep C Day on the Hill!

Posted on by Joy Mosenfelder

Join us on Wednesday, April 11, 2018 for the first ever Hepatitis C Lobby Day and talk to your legislators about this important issue.

Organized by the EndHepCMA Coalition.

Posted in Massachusetts Viral Hepatitis Coalition – What’s New, Victory Blog, Victory Programs - What's New | Leave a comment

Tune in to NECN Tonight for Dinnerfest on “The Take!”

Posted on by Joy Mosenfelder

Tune in to NECN at 7 PM tonight, Tuesday, March 27, for “The Take” live  to learn more about our 2018 Dinnerfest RED Party + Auction from event co-chairs Tiffani Faison of Sweet Cheeks and Tiger Mama and Richard Gordon of the South End Buttery!

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Good Food is the Foundation at the Boston Living Center

Posted on by Joy Mosenfelder

When you ask David why he comes to the Boston Living Center (BLC), he is very direct. “Healthy, nutritious food and the social life of being able to be with other people who are HIV positive. There is a sense of solidarity between us.”

David has been coming to the BLC since 2014. “I’m here every day for lunch. Most of us don’t have the resources for healthy food, even with food stamps. For an HIV positive person eating healthy is very expensive. Meals at the BLC, combined with other resources, allow us to maintain not just good health, but optimal health.”

BLC Program Director, Larry Day, couldn’t agree more. “Surveys have shown, consistently, that for the majority of people who use the food and nutritional services program this is either their first or second most important source of nutrition,” he shares. Many of the members who attend the BLC for weekday meals are homeless and/or unemployed or underemployed. Moreover, the meals served at the BLC are nutritionally-dense and specifically designed to directly address the needs of people on anti-retroviral therapy.

“Without good, healthy, nutritionally-dense food the negative side effects of our meds are amplified,” explains David. “The fact that the meals are provided at no cost to members is an added bonus.”

Walter Peavy, the BLC’s Food and Nutritional Services Manager, takes pride in serving quality meals that also taste delicious to the membership. “We try to put together the best nutritional meal possible and satisfy everyone’s taste,” he says. “It isn’t always easy, but we try to make sure there is something for everyone.”

“The BLC staff is focused on client needs,” shares Miguel, the newest member of the Food and Nutritional Services staff. Miguel has been working in the food services industry for the past fifteen years, both front and back of house, and started coming to the BLC as a member before being hired on to join the meals and nutrition team. He likes the fact that the BLC Food and Nurtitional Services program is focused on health, and continually improving to better meet member needs. “They don’t discriminate and they cater to each individual. They invest so much attention to detail.”

“There is something special about breaking bread together,” shares Larry Day, who started coming to the Center as a member more than two decades ago. “The diversity you see in the dining room speaks to that – people sitting next to each other that would not normally have a meal together. Family, isn’t about shared blood, it’s about shared experience and we all share this experience.”

The Food and Nutritional Services program is often the reason people first come to the Center, however, those who stay get so much more. “The BLC was instrumental in getting me into MassHealth and Medicaid and accessing the Ryan White Program,” shares David, who also regularly attends support groups, accesses medical case management services and received help with referrals for housing through the Center. “The good food is the foundation of maintaining good health with HIV.”

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VICTORY HOUSE ALUMNI RETURNS AFTER 25 YEARS IN RECOVERY TO MAKE $25,000 GIFT HONORING HIS LATE HUSBAND

Posted on by Joy Mosenfelder

Stephen (center) poses with his sister and Victory Programs' President and CEO Jonathan Scott

 

In 1993, Stephen Thomas was newly sober after several years of battling his addiction to cocaine, heroin and other substances, estranged from his family and staying in the Shattuck Shelter with few options for services to help him take the next step in his recovery and stabilize his life. In his heart, he knew there was one place he could turn for help. Even then, Victory House had a reputation for opening its doors to even the most complicated cases, including those who had self-detoxed, like Stephen, or those with a dual diagnosis of substance addiction and HIV/AIDS. And for Stephen, that was the sticking point; as a closeted, young, gay man he wasn’t sure he wanted to seek recovery services at a program so strongly associated with the LGBTQ community during the height of the AIDS epidemic. Ultimately, however, there was nowhere else to go. He reluctantly picked up the phone, went through intake, and was lucky enough to be granted a bed that same day.

For active users seeking treatment for substance use disorder, low-threshold access to treatment at the time they make the decision to work on recovery is critical. 25 years later, Stephen says that getting a bed at Victory House when he needed it most made all the difference for him. “I am grateful for the gifts of recovery. Most of all I am grateful to have become someone other people can rely on,” says Stephen, who is now a top decision maker at a bi-coastal firm with more than 400 employees.

Stephen and his late husband met in recovery at Victory House 25 years ago. They had discussed sharing the bounty they had found in their recovery by making a significant gift of $25,000 back to the program prior to his husband’s unexpected passing last year and for Stephen, making the gift now serves as an important way of honoring the love of his life. “We were both so grateful for the support and community we found here,” Stephen shared during a speech to a full house in the crowded common room at Victory House included current clients; program staff; two of Stephen’s siblings, one of whom worked at the program under Victory Programs’ President and CEO Jonathan Scott; also in attendance; both of his husband’s brothers and several close family friends.

Stephen’s visit had a profound impact on all of those who heard him speak, including those currently living at the program, who have asked staff to consider renaming the common room in his honor.

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