WVAC is proposing to develop a recreation based center in the Wilkes Barre City to serve people of the LGBTQ community and others at risk of acquiring HIV.

Statement of Need

The Wyoming Valley AIDS Council (WVAC) has led the way in AIDS awareness and education since 1985 when a group of community members came together to create a support network for people diagnosed with AIDS.  Since then, WVAC provided a wide array of services and programs designed to improve the lives of those with an HIV/AIDS diagnosis. WVAC provides medical case management services, mental health counseling, assistance to maintain housing, obtain food and other necessary services that support responsible health activities.

WVAC coordinates related services to assure an expanded spectrum of care that supports full community participation for people living with HIV. We have worked to build collaborations with many local agencies so clients with HIV can engage successful strategies for a long healthy life. A review of Medical Case Management(MCM) enrollment over the past several years reveals many clients drop out of care which compromises their continuing use of HIV medications to control progression of the disease. Additionally, clients living with HIV may also engage in risky behavior that further spreads the disease if they don’t have continued support and opportunities to discuss challenging life issues with professional staff. WVAC is proposing to establish a single location that houses testing, Medical Case Management, psychosocial services, Mental Health/Drug and Alcohol counseling and support services for people living with HIV to build a strong social network, have full access to services and openly discuss sexual health. The Northeast Region of Pennsylvania does not have a safe, well-established location for people living with HIV or those people at high risk of acquiring HIV or other sexually transmitted diseases to freely discuss challenging life issues. These groups suffer from social isolation and inability to openly talk about health related issues and sexuality. Most often, members most at risk for acquiring HIV, have limited opportunities for free expression in non-alcohol related environments. Night clubs are not the best locations to discuss serious life issues. We want to establish a location where responsible health related discussions are held without reliance on use of alcohol or where members are subjected to biased views of human sexuality.

Location

We propose to hire a Full Time Peer staff member who, along with other professional WVAC staff, will facilitate multiple health related groups in a centrally located area of Wilkes Barre. This service will be located in an area also housing Medical Case Management staff who will assist a newly hired Peer Specialist to facilitate a safe atmosphere for members. The facility will be easily accessed by those who walk, off street parking for those who can drive and easily accessed by those people with limited ambulation. This facility will be ADA accessible. The environment will be safe and casually furnished to support relaxing conversation conducive to long periods of visitation. Members will be encouraged to assist others and free literature will be available for distribution related to housing, medications, education of HIV, and locally available services.

Propose Services


Advisory Board

We propose to establish an Advisory Board comprised of members of the Center that will function as a mentors to new members. This Advisory Group will conduct monthly meetings, at specified times, to assure meetings times are well advertised to improve attendance. The Advisory Board will deal with issues of advocacy, access to services, re-engagement of clients who have dropped out of care, sexual wellness, substance abuse, housing, life skill building and offer recommendations to WVAC leadership staff to further enhance services. this Board will be integral to development of services that successfully engages and re-engages people to successful health strategies.

Educational Services

WVAC proposes to assist members to develop useful life skills by providing weekly sessions about landlord/tenant relations, budgeting, healthy nutrition, sexual health, risk-education training to successfully engage at risk people to have a easily accessed location to gain useful information for stable community living.

HIV/STD Testing

WVAC has trained staff to perform blood testing to assist member to understand their status. Staff will offer consultations and literature to assist members to better understand their options to prevent the spread of disease. Testing will be available each weekday form 9:00 am to 4:00 pm.

Retention in Care Services

Youth, aged 24 and younger, have lower rates of retention in care and thereby more likely to follow established prescribing practices for ART medications. This group is likely to be estranged from significant adults in their live such as parents, grandparents who are typical financial and emotional resources to similar aged people in our community not diagnosed with HIV. We propose to establish specialty groups for young people diagnosed with HIV to engage them in client friendly care that supports continued use of medications to control the disease. Staff will be available each day to assist young people who, may have questions or concerns about HIV medications, progression of the disease, and funding opportunities to assist with everyday needs like housing, food, transportation and medications. Groups will be established to assist people to develop peer supports that successfully engages people in care and supports continued use of health sustaining medications. Recovery Oriented System of Care (ROSC) for clients with Substance Abuse A Recovery Oriented System of Care(ROSC) approach will be used at this facility to assist people living with chronic diseases of HIV, Mental Health and Substance Abuse disorders to receive assistance about all issues at one location. A ROSC is a well-coordinated system of engagement, education, treatment and support services to assist people with chronic illnesses/diseases so they are surrounded by an environment of acceptance and support as they engage successfully health strategies. We have found many of our enrolled MCM clients also suffer from Substance Abuse and Mental Health issues that require well-coordinated efforts of multiple systems. We will work to build collaborations with local treatment facilities to conduct groups and educational seminars in the Drop-In location to support people receiving care in a common location.

Condom Distribution

Each year WVAC distributes several thousand condoms to encourage people to have safe sex. We propose to make condoms readily available at the recreational drop in center.

Linkage to Care

WVAC will focus on engaging client into care, building trusting relationships that support long term responsible healthcare, and decreasing barriers to service.

Hours of Operation

The Recreational Drop-in Center will be open every weekday 8:30am to 4:30pm with evening hours scheduled to accommodate people who cannot attend during the day. We are proposing to open the center at least 2 nights a week when staff will be available to assist members and also discuss specific topics in group or individual settings.

Data Collection

WVAC will assure services provided through this initiative are well documented in appropriate client charts. Outcome information will be maintained showing numbers of people enrolled, number of people reentering care, and number of people self-reporting use of ART medications.