Cue the club mixes! Dust off your pride beads! Check the expiration date on your sunblock! It’s time celebrate!
We love Pride season at Equitas Health because it’s our chance to get out of the exam rooms, off the phones, and into the community. We’ll be at festivals across Ohio and into Kentucky and West Virginia, ready to help you connect to our services and—most importantly—ready to listen to your experiences as LGBTQ+ folks navigating health and wellness care.
We in the LGBTQ+ community take nothing for granted—housing, employment, mental health, the ability to openly present our genders to our families—everything lies in balance. Everything requires maintenance, or self-advocacy, or a personal public awareness campaign. When we gather together at Pride, we share the weight of that work. Our celebrations are the cure for the sting of stigma. They let us shake off the exhaustion of invisibility and isolation. They are the best parties around and also the best medicine: a reminder of our worth.
Every day, Equitas Health patients and clients tell us that before we can set health goals, before we can engage in care, before we can get tested, or schedule a mammogram, or commit to using condoms, we must first understand ourselves as worthy of health.
So consider Pride season like a prescription: Let’s get out and celebrate who we are! Find community! Connect to services that support our well-being! Remind ourselves as if our lives depended on it: We are healthworthy!
Happy Pride, Ohio!
President & CEO
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Equitas Health is thrilled to welcome H. Todd Kepler, DO, MBA—the newest member of our Clinical Executive Team. Dr. Kepler has been a member of Miami Valley’s medical community for over 30 years and brings a valuable combination of physician practice and industry knowledge to Equitas Health. As our Southwest Medical Director, Dr. Kepler provides medical oversight and expertise to ensure the delivery of affordable quality primary and HIV healthcare services at our Dayton Medical Center. In addition, Dr. Kepler will play an integral role in the anticipated opening of our Cincinnati Medical Center and Pharmacy, slated for late 2019.
Here’s what Dr. Kepler had to say about his experience so far at Equitas Health and his vision for the Cincinnati Medical Center.
Q: What brought you to seek this role at Equitas Health?
Dr. Kepler: I was looking for a position that would allow me the opportunity to make a difference in patients’ lives. Our mission at Equitas Health is to be the gateway to good health for those at risk of or affected by HIV, for the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer/questioning (LGBTQ+) community, and for those seeking a welcoming healthcare home. Being part of the LGBTQ+ community, I have experienced firsthand providers’ lack of knowledge regarding the needs of our community, and the lack of cultural humility in many healthcare settings. At Equitas Health, I have the chance to influence the transformation of healthcare delivery for those needing a welcoming healthcare home, and that is extremely exciting!
Q: What have you learned since you arrived at Equitas Health?
Dr. Kepler: First, I have witnessed the passion shared by all Equitas Health employees for making positive changes in how we deliver healthcare. And I will tell you, it is contagious. I have also learned that while we have made great strides for acceptance by many people in our lives, LGBTQ+ community members still routinely experience mistreatment by health providers. The stories I hear from patients make me realize just how much work there is left to do. I strongly believe that everyone deserves culturally competent care, and I want to be part of a team that sets the standard for the care we all deserve.
Q: What can you tell us about your vision for the Cincinnati Medical Center and the need for the services it will provide?
Dr. Kepler: Our goal in Cincinnati, as at each of our Medical Centers, will be to provide care that is truly patient centered. Our comprehensive medical services will encompass HIV management, trans care, PrEP, STI treatment, and chronic disease management, all within the framework of primary care. And of course our work in Cincinnati will be guided by what I believe is essential to the delivery of great care: cultural competence. While there are providers in Cincinnati delivering care to the LGBTQ+ communities, people living with HIV, and other underserved populations, the demand is such that Equitas Health can make a significant difference by providing more access to high quality care. We will also be able to influence positively the standard of care given to all patients in need.
It’s true. Housing really is health care.
People living with HIV/AIDS experience an 80% reduction in mortality, once in stable, supportive housing.
Homeless people living with HIV who receive a housing placement are twice as likely to have an undetectable viral load in 12 months, compared to those who remain homeless.
Equitas Health clients of the HOPWA program have a 91% viral suppression rate, compared to a 47% viral suppression rate among people living with HIV nationwide.
That’s why we’re so thrilled about the expanded Ryan White Part B funding the Ohio Department of Health has granted Equitas Health for the purpose of helping more Ohioans living with HIV access stable and sustainable housing. Currently Equitas Health housing programs, which are funded by the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) and the Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA), serve about 500 Ohioans living with HIV, offering short-term housing stabilization, long-term rent and utility assistance, and wrap-around housing case management. The new funding will make housing services available to hundreds more Ohioans per year.
“This is a truly exciting time,” said Director of Housing Tiana Purvis, MSW, LISW-S. “This new funding builds our capacity so that we can serve people all over the state.”
Previously, Equitas Health has had enough funding to support housing case managers in Columbus, Dayton, Portsmouth, and Toledo. Now the team is more than doubling in size and hiring a housing case manager in each of the 11 cities with Equitas Health locations. Purvis’s position was added to direct the expansion of the program.
As she brings on new staff, Purvis says she wants to build a team that understands the depth of what is at stake in their work. “Housing is the beginning,” Purvis says. “If we can help someone into stable housing, and then onto medication—if we can make sure they know that with treatment they can be healthy and don’t have to worry about transmitting the virus—we can get them through all those doors they thought were closed to them. It all starts with the confidence of a roof over head.”
The expansion of the program will allow staff to collaborate with local housing coalitions, identify new landlords, and outreach to people living with HIV in need of housing services—activities that previous staffing levels didn’t allow. “This is a resource rich moment for HIV housing in Ohio,” Purvis says. “So often in the social services, we are scrambling to meet the needs of more people than we can serve. In this case, in addition to serving more people, we will have the capacity to leverage additional support for clients and raise the overall standard of care.”
Are you or someone you know interested in learning more about our housing positions open across the state? Visit our careers page, today!
Did you know that half a dozen Ohio statutes still target and criminalize people living with HIV? As a leader within the Ohio Health Modernization Movement (OHMM), Equitas Health is collaborating with other community partners to reform or repeal these regressive and discriminatory statutes.
Most notorious among the six Ohio laws that criminalize HIV is the felonious assault statute, which charges people with a known HIV-positive status for engaging in sexual conduct without first disclosing their status. Not only does this statute promote risky sexual behavior by encouraging people to not know their status, it also ignores the science behind the U=U campaign: people living with HIV who are receiving effective treatment and who are virally suppressed (undetectable) cannot transmit the virus to sexual partners (their HIV is untransmittable). Yet under current Ohio law, if someone takes prophylactic measures to keep a transmission from taking place—like being on an effective medication regimen or using a condom—they could still be penalized for a felony-level assault.
Several other statutes within Ohio’s current laws raise misdemeanor penalties to felonies based solely on a person’s known positive HIV status, even if the penalized behavior itself does not pose a risk for HIV transmission. HIV cannot be spread through spitting or biting, for example, yet doing so to a police officer is a felony if a person has a known positive HIV status. Other statutes that criminalize sex workers, like solicitation or loitering to solicit—neither of which pose any transmission of risk—are automatically enhanced to felonies if the alleged perpetrator has a known positive HIV status.
In June 2017, the bi-partisan Ohio Criminal Justice Recodification Committee issued a comprehensive package of bills regarding various facets of criminal justice reform. Included in these bills were amendments to four of Ohio’s six HIV criminalization statutes. The Recodification Committee’s recommendations were a great start, but they went nowhere fast and have been sitting on a shelf since then.
As a response to this potential movement to modernize Ohio’s HIV laws, OHMM was formed through partnerships between healthcare providers, advocacy organizations, grassroots activists who have worked in this space for decades, and national organizations, like Lambda Legal and the Center for HIV Law and Policy. OHMM’s goals for improving these statutes include, first and foremost, a requirement that any law regarding HIV be based in science, not stigma. Additional goals include that any HIV law promote public health and help in our combined efforts to end the HIV epidemic, and that any HIV law does not perpetuate dangerous stigma against people living with HIV.
Currently, OHMM is working to finalize its proposed bill language that will amend existing HIV statutes. What comes next is where you come in—we’ll need your help to educate your legislators and the community about why Ohio’s current HIV criminalization laws are so problematic and how best to fix them.
Keep your eye out for Equitas Health’s advocacy updates about our work with OHMM and about opportunities for you to talk to your legislators about the importance of modernizing Ohio’s HIV criminalization laws. Living with a chronic illness should not be criminalized, but that’s exactly what Ohio does to people living with HIV. With your help, we can modernize Ohio’s laws.
Thank you to Equitas Health Intern Lee Romaker for preparing this article.
In July of 2018, Daniel Mathuews, MSW filled a new position at Equitas Health: Behavioral Health Therapist at our Portsmouth Office. Caught in the crossroads of the opioid epidemic, the Portsmouth social service community has responded with a broad range of addiction treatment services and facilities, but there is still a high need for broader mental health services, which are limited to just a few providers in the region.
But need doesn’t always translate into demand. Offering and receiving mental health services in rural areas is more complicated than that.
“Here in the Appalachia area, the cultural standpoint is ‘we take care of our own,’” Mathuews explains. “Often times, people in this area don’t seek services when we have mental health issues because there’s a lack of trust toward outsiders.”
Mathuews’ hope is to fight past this perception by working with other staff to make the Portsmouth office a welcoming, safe, and healthy space for anyone in the community.
“Equitas Health’s ‘Care for All’ message is something I really want people to understand about our agency,” Mathuews says. “We’re here for everyone.”
Mathuews also recognizes a general stigma in the community about seeking treatment for mental illness. “People don’t want to be seen as weak for asking for help, and they don’t want to be seen seeking treatment in such a small town, where everyone knows everyone.”
Coming from his own personal struggles with mental illness, one of Mathuews’ goals as a behavioral health therapist is to break down this stigma. As a member of the LGBTQ+ population, someone who has been affected by HIV, and someone who has also struggled with mental illness, Mathuews came into his career wanting to give back to a field that had a positive impact in his own life. So he does what it takes to meet people where they’re at.
Mathuews travels offsite to meet with clients who can’t get to him, sometimes over an hours’ drive. When the new Equitas Health location opens in Athens, he plans to offer services once a week to see clients.
For Mathuews, anything he can do to ease people across the barriers to mental health care in the rural setting is worth it. “The most rewarding thing is having a client who feels completely out of control over their own journey, and then seeing them become empowered and achieving their goals. I think that’s what keeps me charged—personal stories, and personal feedback, and knowing what I’m doing is actually making a difference. At the end of the day, we’re just a safe landing place for anybody that needs it.”
Thank you to Equitas Health Intern Lisa Hamant for preparing this article.
Since 2015, PrEP—the once-daily pill that can prevent HIV transmission—has been a critical component in the fight to end the HIV epidemic. But if PrEP treatment is going to be an effective tool, it must be accessible and affordable for everyone affected by HIV.
HIV disproportionately impacts lower income communities and those without access to health insurance, so making resources, such as PrEP, accessible to all is key to improving health and stopping the virus in its tracks. In Ohio, the new PAPI program (Prevention Assistance Program Interventions) is poised to bridge the gap between PrEP haves and have-nots and with a grant from the Ohio Department of Health (ODH), the Equitas Health Prevention Team is gearing up to help Ohioans get PrEP paid for with PAPI!
PAPI is an ODH program that covers costs related to PrEP treatment, including office visit, lab work, and prescription copays, medical services for people without insurance, and health insurance premiums. In short, PAPI covers all PrEP-related expenses aside from the cost of the medication, which is typically covered either by insurance or drug manufacturer assistance programs. To qualify for PAPI—and get PrEP for free—you have to have a negative HIV status, live in Ohio, and make an annual income of $64,500 or less for a household of one.
In addition to funding PAPI assistance, ODH has granted funds to Equitas Health and other nonprofits throughout Ohio, to hire PrEP Health Navigators who will spread the word about PAPI, help people enroll in the program, and sustain PrEP treatment. As of April 2019, Equitas Health has hired and trained PrEP Health Navigators in each of the 11 cities where we have offices. For more information about how to get PrEP paid for, contact your local Equitas Health office.
Thank you to Equitas Health Intern Lee Romaker for preparing this article.
DEVELOPMENT | AIDS Walk Ohio Finishes Another Lap
Thank you to all the volunteers, sponsors, staff, and participants who came out to the 2019 AIDS Walk Ohio! You flooded McFerson Commons with more than a thousand people and raised $284,000 for HIV/AIDS service organizations. Virginia West, the Flaggots, and other fabulous entertainers gave rousing performances, and community leaders, including Columbus City Council President Shannon Hardin, Equitas Health President & CEO Bill Hardy, and OSU Wexner Medical Center Director of Infectious Diseases Dr. Susan Koletar, thanked participants for their efforts during this critical fight to stop HIV once and for all. A big shout out to our top donors: Art Hanthorn, Anthony Anderson, Kendall Sherrer, Cardinal Health, Party of 75, and Spectrum King Avenue United Methodist Church! Your generous contributions and dedication to serving those living with HIV and ending the epidemic keeps us walking!
DEVELOPMENT | RED Dayton 2019 A Success
With more than 300 attendees and a fabulous night full of cocktails, hors d’oeuvres, and gorgeous table designs, the April 2019 RED Dayton event was a fantastic success! Attendees gathered in the Dayton Masonic Center to raise over $255,000 to support the Dayton Medical Center’s state-of-the-art affordable medical, dental, and counseling services for people impacted by HIV, the LGBTQ+ community, and other medically-underserved populations. Thank you to the Greater Dayton Area Hospital Association and the Sam Levin Foundation for serving as presenting sponsors, event chairs Beth and Tom Whelley for their dedication, Dayton’s fabulous designers who constructed the elaborate tablescapes, and all who attended for making this event such a success!
INSTITUTE | Elevate Your Voice: We’re Listening
Tired of white doctors dismissing your concerns? Do you avoid care because of past experiences as an LGBTQ+ patient? Do you struggle to make health a priority? Have you redefined what health and wellness means to you?
Ignite the Transforming Care Conference with your story!
This year’s Transforming Care Conference (October 17 & 18 in Columbus) will highlight a series of rapid-fire personal presentations featuring firsthand accounts of LGBTQ+ folks experiencing, navigating, and/or avoiding healthcare and social services. If you or someone you know has a personal story to tell about accessing health and social services as a member of the LGBTQ+ community, please sign up for more information by June 30, 2019. Selected presenters will receive free admission to Transforming Care, $75, and presentation coaching.
DENTAL | Appointments Available in Dayton
Got a toothache? Time for your kids to get their teeth checked? Considering teeth-whitening services? Our Dental team in Dayton has appointments open immediately for children and adults. We offer a full range of preventative and restorative services, including exams, x-rays, cleanings, teeth whitening, fillings, crowns, dentures, partials, and simple root canals and extractions. We accept Medicaid, Medicare, and most private insurances, and have a sliding fee scale for those without coverage. Call (937)-853-3650 or visit EquitasHealth.com to request an appointment today.
BRAVO | SafeZone Training Available
BRAVO is filling its 2019 schedule of SafeZone Core Trainings for providers of intimate partner violence and sexual violence services across the state. The SafeZone curriculum offers training and technical assistance for mainstream survivor services, as well as organizations that work specifically with LGBTQ+ survivors. SafeZone Core Training is a comprehensive one-day cultural humility training for executive directors, board members, staff and volunteers who serve survivors of violence, followed by a half-day or full-day hands-on application training for direct service staff. The training consists of LGBTQ+ terminology, inclusive language, best practice policies and procedures regarding working with LGBTQ+ survivors. For more information, contact Jenn Eidemiller.
PREVENTION | Safe Point Thrives at New Location
This winter, our Safe Point program began offering its harm reduction services out of a new dedicated location at 1267 West Broad Street in Columbus. The move has allowed staff to double the hours of operation and made the services more visible to community members in need. Since opening the West Broad location, Safe Point has reached hundreds of new clients, seeking syringe exchange services, overdose prevention, linkage to medical care and addiction treatment, and HIV/Hepatitis C testing. For more info, visit SafePointOhio.org.
PHARMACY | Shingles Vaccine Now Available
The new shingles vaccine is here and our pharmacists are ready to serve you. The vaccine is recommended for anyone age 50+, even if you have already had an older version of the vaccine. The vaccine is covered by Medicare, Medicaid, and most private insurance plans. No appointment necessary. Have questions? Our pharmacists will be happy to help. Stop by or call one of our pharmacies today!
STAFF & BOARD HIGHLIGHTS | 4 under 40!
Congrats to Equitas Health staff and trustees recently honored among “Under 40” publications.
|Cate Berger, Director of Development & Major Gifts | Dayton Business Journal | 40 Under 40 Class of 2019||Dwayne Steward, Director of Prevention | Columbus Business First | 40 Under 40 Class of 2019||James Ferguson, Equitas Health Trustee | Columbus Business First | 40 Under 40 Class of 2019||Trisha Pound, Clinical Supervisor | Newark Advocate | 20 Under 40 Class of 2018|
These awards highlight the accomplishments of people who show both professional leadership and a commitment to serving their communities outside of the professional setting. We are proud to have you among us and thankful for the work you do to build healthier communities for all.
|JUNE 3 | Health Education for LGBTQ+ Elders | Columbus
Join the Equitas Health Institute for a full day of training about working with LGBTQ+ Elders. Learn more and register today.
|JUNE 12 | Name & Gender Change Legal Clinic | Cleveland
Trained attorneys provide one-on-one legal counseling to walk you through the process of updating your identity documents. Learn more and register today.
|JUNE 25 | LBTQ+ Affirming Mammograms | Cincinnati
Free mammograms for those without insurance who meet the criteria for needing a mammogram. Those with insurance also welcome to attend. Watch the Equitas Health Institute Facebook page for upcoming info about how to register.
|JUNE 27 | The Gender Unicorn | Columbus
Think it doesn’t exist? Think again! The Gender Unicorn is a tool for understanding sexual orientation, gender identities, where they overlap and where they don’t. This event is part of the Equitas Health Institute’s free Diversity Dish breakfast series at the United Way of Central Ohio, 360. S. Third St., Columbus. No registration, just show up! Presented by Ramona Peel, Lead Trainer, Equitas Health Institute.
|OCT 17 | Transforming Care Conference | Columbus
Activists, academics, community members, and health & social service professionals gather for this two-day conference to addresses health disparities affecting the LGBTQ+ and HIV/AIDS community. Be among them! TransformingCareConference.com
JOIN US AT PRIDE
JUNE 9 | Northern Kentucky
JUNE 14 | Traxx Columbus
JUNE 16 | Bat’n’Rouge (Columbus)
JULY 19-20 | Akron Black Family Pride
AUG 3 | Mansfield
AUG 17 | Toledo
AUG 24 | Akron
IN THE NEWS
MAY 23 | The Courier | Sexually transmitted diseases becoming common in NW Ohio
MAY 13 | Columbus CEO | CompDrug’s prison-based treatment program prepares inmates for release
MAY 4 | The Telegraph | Charity still fighting HIV/AIDS 25 years after founder dies
APR 23 | Columbus Dispatch | 25 Years Later Project Openhand Still Provides Love, Good Food, to Those with HIV/AIDS
MAR 16 | NBC4 | Equitas Health held grand opening for King-Lincoln District pharmacy |
MAR 31 | PrizmNews.com | Are these the days we’ve dreamed of?
MAR 26 | PrizmNews.com | An Afternoon with Luster
MAR 1 | Columbus Underground | First Look: Equitas Health Pharmacy Now Open in the King-Lincoln District
FEB 28 | BizJournals.com | Social Entrepreneur: Equitas Health aims to be ‘provider of choice’ for LGBTQ+ Ohioans