2017 Week Six: Healthcare & Health Policy

picture of Anusha GollapalliANUSHA GOLLAPALLI | SHEPHERD’S CLINIC

I can’t believe it’s week 6! Last week was definitely a little slow, but still a good week at the clinic. I’ve been getting to know the volunteers a lot better, which has been great! I also have started thinking about how much I’ll miss coming in to the clinic every day on a regular schedule like this!

One of the great things about Shepherd’s Clinic is our sister center, Joy Wellness. The wellness center provides free nutrition, exercise, and food classes for all of our patients as well as patients with insurance. Since Shepherd’s and Joy Wellness are in the same building, they work in harmony, in which doctors from the clinic side can refer patients to Joy Wellness for nutrition or exercise classes (or anything else), and patients can be referred to the clinic from the Joy Wellness side.

Last Tuesday, when we had some downtime, another Shepherd’s volunteer and I got to head back to the Joy Wellness Center and experience acupuncture circle for the first time! I wasn’t nervous at all until I watched all the other members of the circle get the needles inserted. Once I’d had it, though, I immediately fell asleep for the entire session! For the next few days, I definitely felt much more calm and relaxed. It was definitely a great experience, and I’d recommend it to anyone who needs some stress reduction!

I’ve been making plans with my supervisor about what days I’ll be able to come back and work with them throughout the year – it’s exciting to know I’ll be able to come back, since I’ve had a lot of experience this summer and I know I’d be able to contribute that to the clinic.

picture of Ami Mange CIIPAMI MANGE | BALTIMORE HARM REDUCTION COALITION

This was one of the best, busiest weeks I have had so far at my internship. We had a number of trainings scheduled for the week, which included locations such as Red Emma’s, Housing Authority of Baltimore City, and Artscape. Do you want to guess which was the most fun?

While attending Artscape the summer after freshman year, I never would have thought that two years later I’d have my own table at the fair. BHRC shared tent space with the North Avenue Knowledge Exchange, and it was great to get to know them and share ideas and our work. While we were not the most conventional table at Artscape, we did have a lot of individuals stop by to receive Naloxone trainings. The level of interest shown by attendees was refreshing.

I was excited for the training at the Housing Authority of Baltimore City, at the Benton Building downtown, because I’d never been in a government, or resident advisory board, meeting and I was excited to deliver a presentation to such engaged individuals. When I walked in however, I was surprised. The turnout was very low, but what got me was that the meeting was arranged to discuss a program titled “Parents Against Drugs”. I thought to myself, “Hmm. Delivering a talk about harm reduction in a meeting for an abstinence/anti-drug program will be…interesting”. And it was. I didn’t try to sugar-coat our messages or principles. I said something along the lines of “people will use drugs if they want to, and that’s okay”, and “abstinence programs have been highly ineffective in solving the problem” several times, and each time the audience looked at me with skepticism and obvious non-verbal disagreement. I now wonder what would have happened if I had mentioned safer consumption spaces. While that part of the training was a little awkward, the actual training (learning how to inject Naloxone), generated good discussion and a relatively more positive atmosphere. Funny how everyone comes together to reverse an overdose, but they can’t agree on prevention.

The training outside Red Emma’s was successful. Many people stopped by to get trained and receive a kit. A lot of people in the surroundings knew of our presence there. I know this because someone suspected that a woman on a bus across the street was OD’ing, and a group of people came running to our table to grab a Naloxone kit. I ran back there with them, but the bus left before we could get there. Someone later informed us that the woman was pregnant and had actually fainted because of the heat, and that there were people trying to help her. Although this was a false alarm, it reaffirmed the need for our work in the community. Thank goodness everyone was alright.

Each training was a different experience, and I learned something new from every single one. This is good, good work.

CORINE PEIFER | CHASE BREXTON LGBT RESOURCE CENTER

On Monday, I had the honor of sitting in on the LHRC’s Community Advisory Board meeting, which typically meets for 2 hours every 4 months. It is composed of a small selection of LGBT community members with varying experience, such as those involved in the legal sectors, other community advisory boards, and former health care administrators. It was interesting to see my Director report back to them with what the LHRC has done, while asking them for guidance on our future steps. Most of the talk surrounded the restructuring of the SAGECAP program by bringing in a case manager to fill the spot that was vacated this summer and the THANK U program, which is designed to collect data regarding Chase Brexton’s transgender care and to promote it the public. Everyone brought unique perspectives and additional thoughts to improve the programs. Simply, it was amazing to see such a productive and collaborative meeting between community members who seem as though they only became close to one another by being on the board.

Additionally, I sat in 2 other administrative meetings: one for designing the THANK U survey and one with population health to host an overall transcare day. First, the THANK U survey was primarily based on the survey that is used for our Gender JOY, a youth transcare program, yet it was slightly modified. It was interesting to see how people designed questions to make sure we were getting the proper information that we wanted and could tie it directly to metrics that we are held to. Furthermore, the Population Health department wants to hold a transcare day in which various services and screenings can be performed. Some examples include pap smears for transgender men, HIV and STI testing, dentist appointments, and cooking demonstrations; a wide range of services that patients can take advantage while being in a more comfortable environment with other transgender patients.

Both programs will be fully implemented and held after I leave. It is a sweet bitterness feeling when I think of them. I am so happy to see the LHRC continuing to revolutionize LGBT health care and really make forward momentum regarding such. However, it makes me remember to truly utilize my time at the LHRC because all great things must come to an end. In this case, a mere two weeks.

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