Well being care is a social justice concern for Positively Residing CEO

Entry to high quality well being care looks as if such a primary human proper. However discovering good medical care at an inexpensive worth is tough even for these with a steady revenue and housing. It turns into exponentially tougher for these on the margins – those that are low-income, unhoused, with severe continual sicknesses.

Steve Jenkins has made it his mission to offer these well being care alternatives by his work as CEO of Positively Residing and Alternative Well being Community, a public well being nonprofit serving what are Tennessee’s most weak populations: these struggling to outlive HIV, homelessness, psychological sickness, substance use and LGBTQ+ discrimination.

Steve Jenkins, CEO of Positively Residing and Alternative Well being Community, talks with medical assistant Leslie Brown on the clinic lab station at Alternative Well being Community’s Knoxville location on Friday, August 19, 2022. Jenkins is receiving the Public Well being Advocacy Well being Care Hero award.

“I actually view well being care as a social justice concern,” Jenkins mentioned. “Should you can stage the enjoying subject and provides people entry and alternatives to interact in high quality well being care, particularly these with complicated well being points, it’s our obligation.”

Jenkins is a recipient of the 2022 Knox.biz Well being Care Heroes awards within the public advocacy class.

Viral suppression the important thing

Positively Residing was established in 1996 with a $25,000 startup grant from the Robert Wooden Johnson Basis. Positively Residing saved the concentrate on its housing program throughout these preliminary years, recognizing that housing is a prime issue that results in optimistic outcomes for folks with HIV.

“That was the core mission, bodily low-cost housing,” mentioned Jenkins, who got here on board in 2005. “Then … as we advanced the company, we started to know there was a scarcity of well being care alternatives for folks on the margins, so we thought we might transfer into the medical area.”

For these affected by HIV, he mentioned, it is vitally essential to interact with a doctor, get on treatment and take it constantly in an effort to turn out to be virally suppressed, which suggests making the viral load low sufficient to cut back the chance of transmitting the virus to a different particular person.

“The primary predictor of somebody’s means to turn out to be virally suppressed is housing standing,” Jenkins mentioned, noting suppression charges are extraordinarily low for the unhoused. “We nonetheless focus plenty of vitality and sources to getting folks into housing and sustaining that.”

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A complete medical part additionally is vital.

“It appears so easy, however the obstacles might be fairly giant,” he mentioned, including there’s “completely” plenty of stigma in opposition to HIV-positive sufferers. “We do that work for that purpose. It is my perception that everybody deserves entry. Individuals do throw up partitions, and it is our job to work round these partitions.”

Eliminating obstacles with one-stop mannequin

Steve Jenkins, CEO of Positively Living and Choice Health Network, talks with outreach nurse Gregory Stafford, left, inside a mobile van clinic on Friday, August 19, 2022. Jenkins is receiving the Public Health Advocacy Health Care Hero award.

Steve Jenkins, CEO of Positively Residing and Alternative Well being Community, talks with outreach nurse Gregory Stafford, left, inside a cellular van clinic on Friday, August 19, 2022. Jenkins is receiving the Public Well being Advocacy Well being Care Hero award.

Eliminating obstacles is one thing Jenkins excels at, mentioned Positively Residing COO Kim Lauth, who was employed full time after serving on the nonprofit’s board and dealing as a advisor.

“One of many issues I actually love about working with Steve is that he actually focuses on ensuring we as a workforce see the humanity in each particular person we serve and meet them precisely the place they’re,” she mentioned. “He tries to make it as straightforward as attainable for folks to entry companies and keep in care.”

Jenkins envisioned a “one-stop store” mannequin and got down to make it a actuality, Lauth mentioned.

“We needed to get one thing so a consumer might get companies and would not need to go to a number of websites,” Jenkins mentioned. “We needed to make it low barrier, to place all of it underneath one roof.”

The concept was not solely to concentrate on metro areas, but additionally rural areas the place folks confronted obstacles to care, together with lack of transportation and needed companies. Positively Residing’s growth to a number of areas, together with Chattanooga and Higher Cumberland in East Tennessee and Memphis in West Tennessee, introduced a brand new identify: Alternative Well being Community.

“It’s Steve’s ardour and drive that has guided Positively Residing for a few years, and what led the group to create the Alternative Well being Community,” mentioned Tate Coffey, the present chair of the board. “The transfer took an company that was already profitable in guaranteeing shoppers had the psychological well being assist that they wanted, into an expanded function offering onsite bodily well being care as properly.”

Lauth agreed. “The truth that he has been in a position to take this group from a very small nonprofit to at least one that has areas throughout the state, once more speaks to somebody with dedication and imaginative and prescient.”

Enlargement provides pharmacy

Steve Jenkins, CEO of Positively Living and Choice Health Network, is photographed outside Choice Health Network's Knoxville location on Friday, August 19, 2022. Jenkins is receiving the Public Health Advocacy Health Care Hero award.

Steve Jenkins, CEO of Positively Residing and Alternative Well being Community, is photographed exterior Alternative Well being Community’s Knoxville location on Friday, August 19, 2022. Jenkins is receiving the Public Well being Advocacy Well being Care Hero award.

About two years in the past, the group bought its everlasting housing facility in Knoxville however nonetheless pays round $1 million yearly to accommodate shoppers. Medical care and social companies had been expanded and a brand new facility was opened final yr on Ailor Avenue.

That facility hosts a full medical clinic that gives HIV prevention, testing and therapy companies in addition to a full-service pharmacy. It additionally offers some main and infectious illness care in addition to psychological well being counseling and remedy. Different companies embody hurt discount work reminiscent of needle trade, wound care, and naloxone coaching and distribution, meals help, transportation, short-term rental help and long-term housing assist.

“The expansion and growth that the group has skilled previously few years has been a direct results of Steve’s management,” mentioned Coffey. “The rising pains had been typically extraordinary, however Steve navigated them exceptionally properly, realizing that the tip end result would finally result in a greater, more healthy life for a lot of in our group.”

Trying forward

What does the long run maintain for the group? For Jenkins, the reply should stay fluid.

“I imagine firms have to all the time evolve, to all the time concentrate on the atmosphere and the wants, and to fill these wants as they arrive up,” he mentioned. “We’ve nice suppliers on this group (so) our technique (has been) to discover a area of interest of what is not being accomplished. The objective is to not be largest, however to make use of all the pieces we’ve got to be essentially the most impactful.”

Jenkins sees a present want evolving out of a pure, long-running alliance between the HIV and LGBTQ+ communities.

“The disparities of well being care that aren’t being addressed, a few of these lean to lack of affirming look after the LGBTQ+ group,” he mentioned. “How can we be impactful there?”

There’s a want, Jenkins mentioned, for consumer pleasant care, particularly for the trans group.

“There’s plenty of stigma in terms of hormone remedy,” he mentioned, citing the necessity for protected areas and docs who know the way to present that care.

Lauth has little question that no matter Jenkins’ imaginative and prescient could be for the long run, he’ll attain it.

“The reality stays that he already has made an influence far past what perhaps even he might have imagined,” she mentioned. “His assist for a largely forgotten and underserved group has saved lives and helped folks thrive.”

This text initially appeared on Knoxville Information Sentinel: Well being Care Heroes honors Positively Residing, Alternative Well being’s CEO

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