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Reaching Out!
Coming Soon to Your Neighborhood: The CAT!

By Sheryl Johnson

July/August 2004

Sheryl Johnson

AIDS Survival Project has embarked upon a brand new initiative that you'll be hearing a lot about and I wanted to give you a "heads up!" so that you'll already be aware of a project that will be beneficial to agencies that serve Ryan White CARE Act clients. Last winter, members of the ASP staff came together to brainstorm and talk about new ways to be of service to the community while fulfilling our commitment to our Ryan White funding source to provide accurate numbers of how many Ryan White clients we serve. Equipped with a general concept paper that described the program, five staff members went out recruiting and returned with signed agreements from eight local service agencies who agreed to collaborate with ASP in producing a successful Care Access Team (CAT) Program.

So what exactly is the CAT program and how will it benefit the participating agencies? The objective of the program is to provide high-quality services to HIV-positive persons while at the same time enhancing the resources available to agencies as they provide services to their clients. As budgets are being squeezed and monies for nonprofits are diminishing, organizations are finding that they must come up with creative ways to provide quality services to those having the greatest need. Therefore, what this program hopes to accomplish is a collaborative effort that motivates the clients towards becoming more self-managed and results in increasing client access to HIV services.

For the most part, many clients are overwhelmed when they first enter into the Ryan White system of care. I know this was my situation back in 1996. When I received my diagnosis, I immediately went to the local AIDS service organization (ASO) that handled case management services. Once I was in the system, I was passed from staff member to staff member. Although everyone seemed friendly and cordial enough, I never seemed to "belong" to any one person, so they kept passing me on. I was only able to find out what was available to me because I was always asking questions -- lots and lots of questions. I was fortunate, because among the hosts of staff that I got to know, I had one case manager who acted like she was working for me. She was knowledgeable, diligent, highly efficient and persistent, and she never let go of a problem until we had it resolved.

With the CAT program, we hope to empower clients so that they will move into a self-management mode. The curriculum includes information on:

The entire presentation takes less than two hours and provides the clients with the extra incentive of possibly winning a raffle prize if they show up and are on time. Clients are also supplied with MARTA tokens, since transportation challenges are often an issue.

For ASP's part, we provide a minimum of three trainers to conduct each presentation. We utilize staff members that are specifically trained in their own areas of expertise (such as treatment resources), so they can answer questions raised in specific areas. We also offer, upon request, to make follow-up phone calls to clients to remind them of upcoming medical appointments. For their part, our collaborating agencies provide ASP with enough information to begin a client file, and ASP has the opportunity to acquaint new clients with the wide variety of free programs and services that we offer, thus moving them into a self-management mode and encouraging them to become self-empowered. This is obviously a "win-win" situation for everyone involved, and we are very excited about what can be accomplished through the current collaborating agencies, as well as where we can expand in the future. The collaborative agencies that have joined our initial effort include AID Gwinnett, Cobb County Board of Health, DeKalb County Board of Health, Fulton County Health and Wellness, Grady Infectious Disease Program (IDP), Legacy Village, Our Common Welfare and St. Jude's Recovery Center.

St. Jude's is a private, nonprofit, United Way-funded organization that has been providing 12-step-based services for alcohol and drug-addicted men and women since 1962. The agency provides effective and affordable treatment to people from all walks of life. St. Jude's' comprehensive programs include educational, psychological and spiritual support, giving addicted people and their family members the ability to reach their full potential as human beings and to achieve long-term recovery. St. Jude's' treatment program is based on a belief that chemical dependency is a disease that affects an individual's physical, emotional and spiritual life. To recover, clients must make certain changes in each of these areas. Their approach is to help clients gain insight into these necessary changes through education, therapy and support.

To give a brief idea of the impact of substance abuse, look at these statistics:

Here at ASP, one of our most valuable long-term volunteers is a successful recovering addict who graduated from St. Jude's program. We know what they can do! All of their residential programs are located in downtown Atlanta in close proximity to public transportation and employment opportunities, and the Outpatient Services Center is located within walking distance of the residential facilities. For further information about St. Jude's, call (404) 874-2224 or visit their Web site at www.stjudesrecovery.org.




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