California Dreaming

By Rob Banaszak on March 18, 2011 in Access2Care

by Liz Brosnan, Executive Director, Christie’s Place, San Diego, CA

As I read my colleague’s wonderful blog yesterday citing her “enthusiastic trepidation,” Michael Jackson’s song “You Are Not Alone” rang through my head. A moment later I envisioned all 80 convening participants covering that song as a Glee spoof.  Naturally, I was leading the chorus as Glee’s substitute teacher Holly Holliday, so adeptly played by Gwyneth Paltrow.  While I’m a far cry from Gwyneth, a girl can dream . . . heck, a girl should dream.

The convening commenced with welcoming remarks from AIDS United President & CEO Mark Ishaug.  His energy and enthusiasm quickly became contagious and light surfaced at the end of the ominous match tunnel.  Day one built solidarity amongst grantees as well as bridged communities from across the country through networking, sharing best practices and strategies. The richness of experience and expertise is best expressed via an excerpt from a poem written by a positive man shared in a documentary this afternoon: “Are you inspired?  You should be.”

As we roll up our sleeves even more on day two of the convening, there are a few things that resonate most with me.  Rebecca Denison, WORLD Founder, discussed the ingredients that help keep people in care in her talk entitled “The Art of Keeping People in Care.” In a nutshell, that is the essence of this ambitious Access to Care Initiative (A2C).  She emphasized the power of the peer, a strategy that is pervasive amongst grantees.  I found myself surprisingly excited about evaluation (please don’t stop reading here – it’s really not a dirty word).  The national evaluation, an effort led by John Hopkins University, will lift up our work by measuring our collective impact on individuals, systems and communities.  Finally, as we embark on the era of healthcare reform, we are uniquely positioned to lead the way.  We are pioneers transforming healthcare through this initiative.

A2C represents the power to ignite change through innovation.  As we create new pathways to care and strengthen existing ones, it is clear to me that this work will not only build healthier communities, it will also produce models that will be replicated in other sectors.

As a Walmart and Social Innovation Fund (SIF) grantee from San Diego, CA, this initiative has been a game changer for Christie’s Place – and that’s putting it mildly.  In San Diego County an alarming 69% of HIV+ women who know their status are not in care.  With A2C support we now have the resources to reach those women as well as engage and retain them in care with cutting-edge strategies and by improving our service delivery system.  Up until six months ago, I could only dream about having the resources to be able to address and reduce the unmet need that exists for women.  SIF is about dreaming, dreaming big.  More than that, it’s about turning those dreams into reality.  It is turning our “what if” into our “what is.”  After all, a girl can dream . . . a girl should dream.

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