LGBTQ Rights – Recognized & Protected!

This is progress. Speaking truth! And making our voices heard.

PRC reminds our community of its commitment to justice in all its forms, as we celebrate the rights of LGBTQ workers that are now protected from employment discrimination in America.   

This week’s Supreme Court ruling has offered a glimmer of hope for our institutions, as we stand with our LGBTQ workers, leaders, clients, and the broader LGBT community.  It took countless allies and decades of advocacy around the nation to achieve the right for equality and human rights in the workplace, and we have now finally achieved the ability to break the chains of second class citizenship in our workforce.    

At a time in our democracy that grapples with how it treats Black Lives and the most vulnerable in Americawe are able to celebrate newly won protections for LGBTQ workers that have been treated without dignity for far too long.  We owe the past victims of insidious discrimination a debt of gratitude for speaking their truth, and making their voices heard.  This is progress, and PRC will continue to march toward further progress with all who join the fight for human dignity in America. 

Also read: PRC’s Stance on Justice, Black Lives Matter

Brett Andrews on the Fight for Racial Justice, San Francisco Business Times

As I write this, our nation is socially rudderless – devoid of leadership to address the latest display of police brutality and endemic racism in America.

The intensity of the current social unrest should not come as a surprise to anyone following current events in recent years. In our lifetime, we’ve witnessed similar instances of George Floyd’s death, often at the hand of those sworn to protect us. If we are willing to reach further back, we’ll find this abhorrent behavior exhibited in our society for centuries. As the Covid-19 pandemic began earlier this year, being a Black/African American in America went from consistently complicated to deadly.

PRC CEO Brett Andrews’ Viewpoint, as published in the San Francisco Business Times June 11, 2020.

 

A question for every American to consider is this: Did those in power today truly believe that a society which continues to be governed by a wealthy white aristocracy would remain in power in perpetuity, with no resistance from the oppressed? In other words, what led us to believe that black and brown people would be OK with a constant slate of abuse, brutality and discrimination until the end of time? Unfortunately, the result of this man-made social construct of racism has withstood the test of time. The reason? Fear.

Fear is the primary fuel that ignites, energizes and animates those who wax nostalgic on a past that disempowered people of color in this country. The energy needed to dismantle racism must be commensurate to the energy it took to create it. I do not condone looting and destructive rioting. However, we must recognize that the civil unrest — which should be viewed as separate from peaceful American protests — may be the countervailing force needed to grab the attention of those who have perpetuated structural, economic and state-sanctioned racism since America was established. It’s hard to comprehend the amount of sustained efforts and resources that were laser-focused on segregating schools, housing, restaurants, nightclubs, stores, water fountains, hotels and the like.

In addressing the varying misperceptions of social justice movements like Black Lives Matter, it’s equally as complicated to consider how we ascribe to subdivisions within the human race that require victims and allies. While oppressed people in our society (black, brown, LGBTQ and others) appreciate the concept of having allies, we should reserve it for the inanimate tasks of supporting policies, positions and rights — not for identifying as fellow sentient human beings. The concept of being allies or in solidarity with others who are different from “us” has led to a less-than-helpful concept of “othering” — a well-meaning but unintentionally negative modality that creates an “us vs. them” reality for many. Instead, we must embrace a deeper, more fundamental human notion of “oneness.”

Hence, if you see a child being mistreated by an adult, you wouldn’t need to ascribe to being an “ally” to all children in order to intervene. You simply intervene because you, too, are human.

I Iong for a future when simply being human can be enough for us to see ourselves in — and support — our fellow humans’ needs, suffering and oppression. This call to action is exactly what defines our mission at PRC. We operate under the belief that an individual is not a victim, but that their need is a symptom of our collective ecosystem that must be modified.

If we change our ecosystem by improving our systems of care — health, education, housing, justice, etc. — we increase the opportunity for success. The challenge, however, is that America has created an oppressive ecosystem largely based on race and class — leaving 100 million Americans (nearly 1 in 3) living in or near poverty.

As a 55-year-old African American man, I’m saddened to be forced to live with the stark reality of surviving, and eerily sitting on the shoulders of my younger brothers and sisters — George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Tony McDade, Ahmaud Arbery and many others — who impermissibly sacrificed their lives by merely being black. While there is no salve to heal these wounds, there is an opportunity for us to recognize the importance of human rights for all.

It’s hard. It’s complicated. Yet, I cannot apologize for the “dis-ease” one may feel. This moment demands all of us to be uncomfortable. Centuries later, U.S. citizens must come to grips with America’s original sins of slavery and genocide and acknowledge the scars of our past. Those scars must still heal. I hope neither you nor I are ever in George Floyd’s situation. In the discomfort of writing or reading this, remember, we both have options to step away — options not afforded George Floyd.

Black Lives Matter

In response to the tragic events of the past week, we want to restate our key organizational value of Justice in all its forms. Our clients represent communities that have long faced cyclical poverty and structural inequity. At a time when their suffering is already compounded by COVID-19’s devastating impact on their health, community and opportunity, the latest reminders of a century’s-long legacy of brutality against African Americans is sending so many more of those we serve into a cycle of unprecedented despair, pain and disorder.

While we are hopeful that the police officers who caused George Floyd’s death in Minneapolis are brought to justice, PRC is examining ways to focus on the systemic issues that can prevent future suffering. As a service provider that helps more than 5,700 San Franciscans overcome legal, health, and poverty related barriers every year, PRC is here to help bring about change on a broader and higher level. We are duty-bound to join forces with those who seek to fix our broken systems that allow inequality and brutality to continue.

BLACK lives matter. Our clients’ lives matter. Through our efforts to form the African American Leadership Council combined with our membership in several other coalitions, we will drive change that impacts and improves both the communities we represent and the lives we’re here to protect. Please join our e-community to learn more and become involved. Together, we can truly change our world.

And All That Pride…

Some things don’t have to change. We are who we are. Thank god.

While this pandemic will prevent us from marching down Market Street in colorful mass to mark the 50th anniversary of the first Pride parades held in San Francisco and New York City, it does not prevent us from coming together to celebrate ourselves, our hard-fought achievements, our rampant creativity, and our strength in community.

(As published in  the San Francisco Bay Times, May 21, 2020)

On the contrary, it should inspire us to do so regardless – safely, of course, with smart adherence to in-person social distancing guidelines, and plenty of aplomb.

I have long admired my good friends Donna Sachet and Gary Virginia—the most dynamic of duos—giving, doing, organizing, giving, convening, inspiring, doing, (did I mention giving?), entertaining, celebrating, and bringing it over and over again in big and small ways to meet community needs. So, I am not surprised that they will outdo themselves again this year.  

Their legendary Pride Brunch—the event of the seasonwill go on, June 27th, and everyone is invited!  

Donna and Gary's Brunch ChallengeFrom the comfort of your living room, kitchen, or dining room, Gary and Donna will bring you the Grand Marshals of the Pride Parade at high-noon on Saturday June 27th, honor the rich history of LGBTQ culture and liberation, and celebrate 50 years of San Francisco Pride with a saucy kitchen battle. The two will share their favorite brunch recipes and you will be the judge yourself, crowning the winner “Pride Brunch Queen.” 

We can sit back and relax with hosted cocktails and a delicious brunch delivered right to our respective doors. Or you can dance, parade, and sing along to live entertainment, live auctions, and special surprises in the privacy of your own home. This longstanding PRC fundraiser honors individuals and organizations fighting for LGBTQ equality, while raising critical dollars for PRC’s lifesaving services like legal advocacy, emergency financial assistance, residential treatment, and employment services. 

Celebrating 50 years of San Francisco community Pride, parading, and action, it is hard to believe how far the LGBTQ movement has come since the Stonewall riots eruptedawakening a new generation of legal and social advocacy. In retrospect, this turning point brings new lessons today amid this evolving era of worldwide COVID-19 public health emergency. We are all connected, and we are stronger when we stand together. 

As public consciousness is rising about that interconnectedness and our Country’s glaring health, income and access inequities, I am proud of San Francisco, our LGBT and allied communities. We’re on the frontlines, showing up for the most vulnerable again and again. And while there is still plenty of work to doI look forward to celebrating the contributions and opportunities brought by this year’s Grand Marshals—The LGBT Asylum Project, Founder of the Spahr Center Rev. Dr. Jane Spahr, and Executive Director of the LGBT Historical Society Terry Beswick—at this year’s virtual Pride Brunch.  

PRC, Pride Brunch’s beneficiary, has long fought for the most disenfranchised and health-challenged in our community on the frontlines of HIV/AIDS and LGBTQ advocacy for access to basic and critical resources. Today, these efforts are even more important as the impact of longstanding fissures in health status and experiences by race, geography, income, and identity are laid bare by the novel coronavirus. PRC is providing emergency funds for rent, medication, and connectivity; legal advocacy to preserve healthcare and subsistence income through job loss and upheaval; and emotional support and employment services to keep people moving forward; while also sheltering nearly 300 adults in place through a substance use and mental health treatment continuum prioritizing health, safety, and wellness.  

As a 55-year old African American gay man, I am both deeply familiar with the disconnection between legal equality and lived equality and deeply indebted to the collective advocacy of so many courageous individuals who were willing to hold the line, never back down, and stand in harm’s way. So, let’s come together on June 27th and celebrate what’s good and great about San Francisco Pride.

Inspired again by Gary and Donna, I think the dire issues of the day will continue to galvanize us – a  Inspired again by Gary and Donna, I think the dire issues of the day will continue to galvanize us – a strongereven more compassionate community. I choose joy, love, honesty, empathy, compassion and service along with a hint of leather, lipstick, and humor. So, let’s brunch 

How could we not celebrate Pride’s 50th anniversary. I’m already planning my outfit. Don’t miss the Battle of the Queens, Gary Virginia and Donna Sachet’s legendary Pride Bruch, streaming live at 12pm on June 27th. Tickets are on sale, so get yours today, and prepare to give big. See you there. 

Emergency Response to COVID Must Include Behavioral Health

What happens when Californians living with mental illness and substance use disorders (SUDs) are unable to receive the care they need? Historically, many end up in jails and Emergency Departments or living on the street. Before COVID-19, this was an inadequate solution, one that community safety net providers worked hard to remedy. Now, the need for mental health and SUD services takes on new urgency. Our Emergency Departments are stretched to the limit. Behavioral healthcare providers statewide are doing everything we can to serve people with urgent mental health and SUD needs in community settings, and out of hospitals. But, just when our communities need us most, we may be at risk of collapse.

Behavioral health organizations are facing a true perfect storm. We continue to provide essential services, including in-person contact with clients in crisis. According to a survey conducted by the California Council of Community Behavioral Health Agencies (CBHA), 89 percent of member agencies lack the necessary personal protective equipment, including masks, hand sanitizer and gloves. Meanwhile, our agencies are hemorrhaging financially. Many organizations are serving fewer clients, even with telehealth options, as people are isolated and afraid to reach out for help. Several organizations have been forced to furlough and cut staff, and the crisis promises to continue to negatively impact our agencies and our clients.

Nevertheless, our professionals continue to work despite fear and uncertainties. Outreach to individuals experiencing homelessness continues. Transporting people into shelters continues. Residential mental health and SUD treatment facilities and halfway houses continue to operate. Suicide prevention hotlines continue to operate as the number of urgent calls steadily increases.

Make no mistake – the need for mental health and SUD services has not declined. On the contrary, symptoms of anxiety, depression and isolation are sweeping the nation. And, very soon, frontline healthcare workers will begin presenting signs of post-traumatic stress disorder.

A second wave of this crisis is taking shape, a mental health crisis that will begin to peak just as new infection numbers start to decline. As the leaders of three of California’s largest behavioral healthcare providers serving some of our state’s most vulnerable individuals, we are worried that we may not be able to help when our state needs us most.

Our organizations continue to reverse overdoses that would otherwise likely have been fatal. We have kept people out of overtaxed Emergency Departments and jails. We have kept people from dying. But, we cannot survive like this. We need help and we need it right away.

That is why we have joined with the National Council for Behavioral Health to advocate for a $38.5 billion infusion of federal emergency funds for behavioral health organizations to avert a large-scale public health calamity. As part of the next stimulus bill, this funding would immediately stabilize the system and ensure that providers like us can provide services to the hundreds of thousands of individuals in California that depend on us.

The value of such an investment goes far beyond the immediate need. Just as frontline healthcare workers have been there when our communities needed the most, we want to be sure behavioral healthcare professionals are able to help. This will not be possible without immediate, emergency funding.

We are grateful to Speaker Pelosi for her work to get bipartisan agreement for the previous stimulus package, and hope that she will be able to secure similar support for behavioral health providers in the next package.

All too often, people living with mental illness and SUDs are forgotten, overlooked or cast out of sight. Now more than ever, we must care for them. Only then can we ensure the health and well-being of all Californians.

Brett Andrews is CEO of PRC, Vitka Eisen is President and CEO of HealthRIGHT 360 and Al Gilbert is President and CEO of Felton Institute

Learn more about the National Council for Behavioral Health.

Computer Learning Center Expands Opportunity

Inside PRC’s buzzing 24-station Computer Learning Center, more than 100 people like Marilyn, Kim, and Sam are building digital literacy and skills to grow their income and workforce engagement.

“I’m so excited to move forward and into the workforce again.”

Outdated skills and gaps in employment can be hard to face, so PRC Workforce Development offers skill and community building opportunities that get people trained-up, confident, and back on their feet. Two accredited programs—Next Step Computer Training and Step Up Administrative Training—provide 64 combined hours of digital literacy and office skills readying people with mental and physical health disabilities for competitive internships and employment opportunities. Last year, PRC ran 20 cycles graduating 106 trainees!

“I have a better grasp on how this [technology] works…finally.”

The results speak for themselves. In 2019, employed graduates saw their annual incomes increase 337%.

People with disabilities experience three times the unemployment rate of the general population. But PRC is getting people into the workforce at more than double the statewide rate. When PRC opened the Integrated Service Center’s doors in April 2019, our computer lab’s capacity more than doubled, and the Workforce Development team began to ramp up classes, programs, and skill building opportunities. In less than one year, with the same high quality, high impact instruction, enrollment is up 30%.

“I can’t place a value on this experience. It was motivational, personally uplifting, and I learned so much in such a short time.”

Graduate
December Graduates: Marilyn (above); Kim (top), flanked by PRC volunteer Troy Kondo and Computer Training Associate (and former graduate) Tomas Llorence; and Sam (left).

PRC also launched LIFT UP SF – Lifting Up Peers for a Brighter Tomorrow – a 64-hour curriculum putting real life experience with mental health and substance use services to work for graduates as peer professionals across public health and social service fields. The first cohort just entered paid traineeships, the final step in advance of competitive employment placements at PRC and partner health agencies across San Francisco. The second cohort is double in size, with 15 students gaining competencies to put their lived experience to work advancing community health.

Graduate

For graduates like Phil (not pictured), opportunities like Next Step, Step Up, and LIFT UP SF are transformational. A longtime PRC client, Phil has overcome drug addiction and homelessness. Fifteen years ago, when he was newly diagnosed with HIV, Phil accessed PRC’s legal services to secure disability benefits. Most recently he’s moving forward with PRC workforce development. “I feel really good right now in my recovery; I’m mentally stable and poised to be able to go off of disability [benefits] and back into the workforce…But the highlight of [LIFT UP SF] is the overall realization that my life experience is worth something. I can connect with that person going down a certain pathhelp people who are drug addicted, homeless, and in health crisis to get from that place—from where I was stuck—to where I am now.”

“My objective is to find a place where I’m happy and a place to grow”

On top of skills-based training and practice in the lab, clients work with PRC specialists to accessed tailored supports in resume and cover letter writing, skills inventories, vocational assessments, interview preparation, and post-placement counseling. PRC partners with some of the largest employers in San Francisco including the University of California at San Francisco, the City and County of San Francisco, the State of California, Apple, Genentech, Target, H+R Block, Starbucks, Blue Apron, Hyatt, Genentech, Uber, Alaska Airlines, Salesforce, Apple, Old Navy, and Whole Foods. The average wage of clients placed in employment was $20.66 per hour in 2018, 38% higher than the local minimum wage.

Congratulations to all our participants and graduates! We’re proud to stand with you, moving forward.

Learn more about PRC’s Workforce Development trainings and services here or reach out about hiring partnerships and putting graduates to work for you.

Moving People Forward: 2019 Impact Report

Dear Friend,

It’s been a tremendous year at PRC, and I’m pleased to share PRC’s 2019 Impact Report with you today.

As you’ll learn, PRC’s staff, volunteers, and clients have been hard at work transforming lives and the systems San Francisco has in place to support vulnerable adults. We opened PRC’s new Integrated Service Center in April 2019 to improve the way people affected by mental health issues, substance use, and HIV/AIDS access crisis intervention, stabilizing services, and longer term supports when they’re needed. In 2018, we helped 5,419 adults.

At PRC we’re addressing the nexus of poverty, stigma, discrimination, and isolation head-on to prevent hopelessness and connect people—like John on page 5 or Liliana on page 7—with new and better paths out of poverty and addiction, illness and stigma, homelessness and decline.

Honesty and innovation are key to moving past the status quo. In San Francisco, as across the nation, we are all challenged to reflect on a rising population of homeless adults and redress inequities in health and resource distribution. You and I may have a support network, a safety net, a couch, or access to money for treatment services or prescription medication when it’s needed. For those among us who do not, whether it’s a brief moment of free fall or a life-long health issue to manage and best, PRC is here: a bridge to hope, to health, and to wellness.

I invite you to read on, be inspired, bring your questions, and share with a friend.

In community,

Brett Andrews

Chief Executive Officer

PRC endorses U=U

SAN FRANCISCO (June 20, 2019) – PRC, whose nonprofit mission is to provide a variety of legal, social and health services to San Francisco residents affected by HIV/AIDS, substance use or mental health issues, has announced its official endorsement of the Undetectable equals Untransmittable (U=U) campaign.

Whether one is affected by HIV or is HIV negative, it is important to know and understand U=U.  The U=U campaign was born in New York City and has quickly spread across North America and the global community.

The stigma associated with HIV remains one of the greatest barriers for people in accessing HIV prevention, testing, treatment, and support. PRC’s endorsement of U=U sends a clear message that sharing the knowledge regarding U=U with our San Francisco community is an urgent priority to save lives and fight stigma, as well as is a call to take action to help spread the message.

U=U (Undectable equals Untransmittable) has unequivocally been supported by scientific evidence.  It shows that, when an individual is in HIV Treatment and maintains a suppressed viral load, there is effectively no risk of transmission to their partner during sex.

Through its partnership with Getting to Zero San Francisco, PRC is committed to preventing new HIV diagnoses and supporting people living with HIV to stay in treatment so they can live their best lives.

Continued support of campaigns like U=U is critical to ending HIV-related stigma. This will help us achieve the goals of preventing new diagnoses, reaching undiagnosed individuals, and ensuring that people living with HIV receive the care, treatment and support they need.

 

About PRC

PRC (formerly Positive Resource Center) is a San Francisco-based nonprofit that helps people affected by HIV/AIDS, substance use or mental health issues better realize the opportunities available to them. PRC provides integrated legal, social, and health services to address the broad range of social risk factors that impact wellness and limit potential. In 2017, the organization merged with AIDS Emergency Fund (AEF), an emergency financial assistance provider for low-income residents living with HIV/AIDS, and Baker Places, an agency that provides a comprehensive array of residential treatment services to people with mental health, substance use, and HIV/AIDS-related issues. Combined, the three organizations represent a 115-year history of service and serve approximately 5,000 clients annually. For more information, please visit www.prcsf.org

SSI Recipients Can Now Receive CalFresh Benefits

Beginning in June 2019, California residents receiving Supplemental Security Income (SSI) who also receive a State Supplementary Payment (SSP) can get CalFresh benefits.

The SSP program was intended to replace the Food Stamp program (now known as CalFresh in California) for SSI beneficiaries when it was implemented in 1974. Over the years, the SSP benefit has remained relatively stable, while CalFresh benefits have increased to reflect inflation. Given the relative loss of value of SSP benefits, the California legislature passed Assembly Bill 1811 to allow SSI/SSP recipients also to receive CalFresh benefits.

This means more opportunities for SSI/SSP beneficiaries to purchase nutritious food

CalFresh is a free nutrition assistance program that enhances the food budgets of low-income individuals. Monthly CalFresh benefits range between $15 to $192 based on household size, income, and monthly expenses. SSI/SSP recipients can apply for CalFresh benefits to purchase food at vendors who accept EBT such as grocery stores, farmers markets participating in the Market Match, and restaurants participating in the Restaurant Meals Program (View Map). SSI/SSP beneficiaries who receive CalFresh will have no reduction to their SSI/SSP payment.

Assembly Bill 1811 also resulted in a monthly grant increase of $10 for recipients of the Cash Assistance Program for Immigrants (CAPI) so that SSI/SSP benefits and CAPI benefits are equal. CAPI beneficiaries will remain eligible for CalFresh benefits.

Households already receiving CalFresh who had an excluded SSI beneficiary may receive an increase to their CalFresh benefits. However, this change will increase the overall income for some households as SSI/SSP income will no longer be excluded, which may cause a reduction in the monthly CalFresh grant. For those households who would experience a reduction in CalFresh Benefits, the Supplemental Nutrition Benefit (SNB) and Transitional Nutrition Benefit (TNB) programs will provide additional benefits to avoid any reduction to overall nutrition benefits.

There are three ways to apply

Each applicant may need to provide proof of income, residency, and identity. HSA may be able to help with obtaining these required documents. Learn more about benefits and eligibility.

NOTE: Due to the high volume of new applicants, applicants may experience extended wait times at HSA service centers and by phone in June and July 2019. Consider applying online or call (415) 558-4700 to schedule an in-person appointment. 

 

Covered California: Tax Filing Requirement for Consumers Receiving Premium Assistance

Some Californians, individuals, and families enrolled in Covered California (Covered CA) plans are eligible for financial assistance to lower the cost of their health insurance.  Anyone who receives financial assistance with Covered CA is required to file a federal tax return as a condition of eligibility.

Covered CA offers two main ways to get assistance with health care coverage costs:

  • Premium Assistance (formally called the Advanced Premium Tax Credit or APTC) is a tax credit to reduce an individual’s monthly premium.
  • Cost-Sharing Reductions is a subsidy to reduce an individual’s out-of-pocket costs (their copay’s, coinsurance, deductible and out-of-pocket maximum).

Important Information Regarding Premium Assistance and Tax Filing

All Covered CA consumers who receive Premium Assistance/APTC, must file federal taxes for each calendar year they receive the assistance. If they fail to file their taxes, they will lose their eligibility for Premium Assistance/APTC. The consumer will then be responsible for paying the full premium amount and will have a higher cost-sharing for health care services.

Warning Notices

Covered CA has mailed warning notices to those who are at risk of losing their Premium Assistance/APTC. These notices were sent to consumers who in 2017:

  • Received Premium Assistance/APTC in the calendar year but did not file a federal tax return for that year;
  • Filed a federal tax return but did not include IRS Form 8962; or
  • Requested an extension to file a federal tax return but did not end up filing the return.

Covered CA consumers who fall within any of these categories will have until May 15, 2019, to preserve their Premium Assistance/APTC by reconciling their premium assistance and contacting Covered California to attest to having done so.

If consumers fail to take these steps, they will receive another notice, in a pink envelope, that tells them when their financial assistance will end if no action is taken. Covered CA consumers who fail to take corrective action will lose their current financial help starting July 1, 2019.