VIDEO: Your Questions About Safer Sex, Answered

March 18th, 2019


Got questions about the latest ways to reduce your risk for HIV, STDs and hepatitis C? So do lots of our followers. Members of our Education & Prevention Department went live on Facebook to answer them. In this video, we covered PrEP, PEP, how risky certain sexual behaviors are (or not), and how to reach our programs for more services!

Need free testing services? Contact us at (845) 704-7624 — you can call OR text! ? You can also email us to set up an appointment.

What’s Case Management? Here’s A Video Example

March 14th, 2019

Hudson Valley Community Services provides a range of services for people living with chronic illnesses–including case management. But what is case management? We say that phrase all the time in the social services field, but what does that mean?

Rather than try to define it, HVCS’ LaShonda Cyrus (who was promoted to Assistant Director of Client Services right after this video was made) shares an example of what it takes to connect people in need with the services that help them live their best life.

This video was animated and produced by Darell Green, a student at Dutchess Community College, as part of their Service Learning Program under the advisement of Prof. Holly McCabe.

The HIV Care Cascade

March 11th, 2019

The HIV Care Cascade intro graphicHave you heard of the HIV Care Cascade?

Essentially, the HIV Care Cascade is a way we can measure the effectiveness of HIV treatment among HIV-positive people. The Cascade uses viral suppression as a measurement–and viral suppression is the medical state in which the number of copies of HIV in a person’s blood is so small that it can’t be detected by the best tests we have. If someone is virally suppressed, they can’t infect anyone else with HIV, so it’s good for them and their sexual partners!

The Cascade is an analysis of the steps or stages of HIV medical care that people living with HIV go through from initial diagnosis to achieving viral suppression. The metrics were developed by New York State’s “End the Epidemic” (ETE) Task Force to track and report to the public the state’s progress on the initiative.

There are four key metrics in the Cascade, including: the number of individuals who are diagnosed with HIV; the number who have evidence of medical care during the year; the number who are retained in care (visiting a doctor more than once per year), and the number who are virally suppressed.

So, how are we doing? Since you can apply the HIV Care Cascade to different groups, let’s look at New York State as a whole and HVCS clients.

As for NY, numbers are improving…

7@% of HIV+ people in NYS are virally suppressedthe overall state average of viral suppression is 72% of HIV-positive clients who received at least one viral load test in 2017.

90% of HVCS clients who are HIV+ and in medical care are virally suppressed.
But HVCS clients are beating the average. We recently compiled our own HIV Cascade for the first time, using 2017 data from some (not all) of our programs. 90% of HVCS clients with evidence of some medical care (they received at least one viral load test in 2017) are virally suppressed!

We work as hard as we can to assist our clients with accessing and staying connected to medical care to keep them–and the whole Hudson Valley–as healthy as possible.

Too Tired For Treatment?

March 8th, 2019

Too tired for treatment...until HVCS helped out.Sandy*, one of our clients in the Mid-Hudson region, is like a lot of people in her thirties: she was working several jobs to make ends meet, had no time to eat properly or exercise, had a few minor health problems that she ignored. She was definitely not focused on her health. That is, until she became HIV-positive.

She didn’t want to see a doctor about it, and was not on HIV medications at all. Our Health Home care manager Maria knew that Sandy needed a lot of emotional support and encouragement to start HIV treatment—and she also knew that Sandy’s health was in great danger if she continued to ignore her HIV-positive status. “I don’t have time for that. I’m too tired,” Sandy would say. Maria was extremely patient with Sandy and, after months of building trust, she eventually got Sandy to see that her health mattered. Sandy finally went to see an HIV specialist and got on treatment.

Thanks to her doctor and Maria, Sandy is now virally suppressed—with no detectable HIV in her blood—and is now connected to a whole host of health resources. Maria reports that Sandy is doing very well.

*Not her real name

The SNAP Gap

February 25th, 2019

The results of a food drive for our emergency food closetsSince continued funding was uncertain during the recent government shutdown, the SNAP program (Supplemental Nutrition Access Program, formerly known as food stamps) handed out February benefits in January. The caveat for recipients, however, was that they were expected to spread those benefits over six weeks instead of four–but for a hungry family, that can be a challenge. Now that the shutdown is over, clients may have gone through their SNAP funds already–and face a food shortage for the end of the month.

We weren’t about to sit back and let this happen, of course. HVCS is assisting clients in this situation through the food closet program. With support from generous donors, corporations and foundations, we’re offering our clients double the amount of food bags this month.

According to Hunger Solutions New York, which funds our Nutrition Outreach and Education Program, in March SNAP benefits will be issued early in order to assist SNAP participants to bridge the gap between the January payments and their regularly scheduled March benefits. All March SNAP benefits will be issued by March 7th.

We are committed to ensuring that clients and their families have enough nutritious food to eat no matter what happens in Washington.

HVCS & St. Lukes Cornwall Hospital Connect Overdose Patients To Long-Term Aftercare Help

February 22nd, 2019

St. Lukes Cornwall Hospital in NewburghWhen someone comes to a standard emergency room because of an opioid overdose, the staff do everything they can to revive them–but what happens after that? At St. Luke’s Cornwall Hospital (SLCH) in Newburgh, they provide overdose patients with a short-term prescription for buprenorphine, a pharmaceutical which prevents withdrawl symptoms without providing a high. This short course of buprenorphine is known as induction and it’s the first step in assisting the client to discontinue or markedly diminish their use of other opioids. SLCH can only offer the induction phase, not a longer-term prescription program, though.

That’s where our Health Hub comes in. We recently began a collaboration with SLCH in which we transition clients from the induction phase to long-term bupe use (known as a Medication Assisted Treatment Program or MAT).

Hospital staff and clients appreciate that HVCS’ services are low-threshold. Clients who come to the Health Hub are able to receive Buprenorphine treatment with out the fear of being discharged because they either relapse or are using another substance. We expect for this collaboration to be very successful and are looking forward to work closely with other hospitals as they begin to look at the same model as St Luke’s Cornwall Hospital.

Project Reach Out Now Offering STD Screenings

February 7th, 2019

Project Reach Out vanAs of February 1, 2019, our Project Reach Out mobile harm reduction units will also be offering free screenings for chlamydia and gonorrhea. The PRO staff, who travel in vans to areas of high need throughout the Hudson Valley, work primarily with people who are homeless or in unstable housing, and help them access the services they need to reduce the harm of drug use and their risk for HIV, Hepatitis C and STDs.

“We’re eager to offer these expanded services to PRO clients,” said Jennifer Brathwaite, HVCS’ Director of Education and Prevention. “These are two more ways we can help people with really high levels of need access care. Getting a free STD test can be an important step in empowering someone to protect their health, especially since these two STDs can often be asymptomatic. This testing program helps not only our clients but reduces the overall amount of STDs in our community.”

Chlamydia and gonorrhea infection rates in New York State have increased every year since 2013. Infection rates among African-Americans are disproportionately high, making up 23% of chlamydia rates and 33% of gonorrhea cases in 2017. These statistics further support the need for expanded STD testing in the vulnerable neighborhoods where PRO typically offers services.

Click here to learn more about our Project Reach Out program.

Alert: NYS SNAP Benefits & Government Shutdown

January 14th, 2019

There is some important news for clients of our Nutrition Outreach and Education Program (NOEP).

New York State has taken the necessary steps to ensure that February recurring SNAP benefits (formerly known as food stamps) will be issued to all SNAP recipients in New York State by January 20th. If you are one of our NOEP clients,  please note that this January 20th SNAP benefit is not an extra payment, but rather an early issuance of February’s benefit. Your NOEP Coordinator will work with you on how to budget accordingly since it will be coming earlier. It is also important to note that all households that require recertifications for February should complete all the necessary steps as soon as possible and before January 18th. Local SNAP offices are working hard to have these recertifications processed before January 31st. At this time, there is no information about how March benefits will be impacted. If you have any further questions please reach out to the NOEP Coordinators in your county:

For Dutchess County please contact Elena Dalia at (845) 360-9722

For Ulster County please contact Catherine Cortale at (845) 579-2558

For Orange County please contact Debbie LaBoy at (845) 522-5761

For Sullivan County please contact Pat Ocasio at (845) 842-1232

HVCS’ Position On Proposed Changes To Immigration Eligibility Rules

November 30th, 2018


This summer, the US Department of Homeland Security proposed changes to the rules that determine what makes an immigrant eligible for a permanent visa or citizenship. There were preexisting rules which stated that immigrants applying for admission were not, are not and will not be a “public charge,” that is, a burden on society—measured by their usage (or not) of public benefits and aid programs. These newly proposed changes will expand the list of public benefits which will disqualify immigrants from successfully establishing permanent residence.

A summary of the new rule reads: “Aliens who seek adjustment of status or a visa, or who are applicants for admission, must establish that they are not likely at any time to become a public charge…Moreover, DHS proposes to require all aliens seeking an extension of stay or change of status to demonstrate that they have not received, are not currently receiving, nor are likely to receive, public benefits as defined in the proposed rule.”

Hudson Valley Community Services condemns the expansion of these disqualification rules. Receipt of public benefits, including food stamps, housing subsidies and/or Medicaid, should not be a determining factor in establishing US citizenship because it is blatantly discriminatory to populations who are already vulnerable, disenfranchised and financially bereft. The proposed rule discriminates against poor people from developing nations and thus favors wealthier, more advantaged immigrants from industrialized nations. At their roots, these proposed regulations are abhorrently racist.

The people that will be disqualified from citizenship under this policy are our clients. We know this because we have worked with poor, disenfranchised and marginalized communities since our founding. Plus, the New England Journal of Medicine recently found that 19 percent of noncitizen adults use Medicaid, and 38 percent of their children are either on Medicaid or CHIP. We have worked with hundreds of immigrants, many undocumented, because we are a resource of last resort. As a private non-profit organization, not only do we have the flexibility to open our doors to anyone, but serving these communities is our mission. We serve as intermediaries to connect anyone who needs help to all available services; we not only educate them on what’s available, but we also help people navigate the often complex processes for signing up for SNAP benefits, housing subsidies, and Medicaid. We fight for the health and wellbeing of everyone and anyone who lives in the Hudson Valley, regardless of immigration status—because we see them as fellow humans.

The undocumented clients who come to us are mostly from Latin American countries and arrive here without a common language, fleeing violence, oppression and dangerous conditions in their home country, and have a genuine, sincere interest in establishing fully productive, lawful lives here in America. None of our clients want to receive public benefits—they would rather not have to turn to us. It is simply not true that people who seek public assistance are merely lazy, don’t want to work, and are clamoring to enroll. That is not the reality that we experience out there in low-income neighborhoods. Our staff have to work very hard to educate and enroll people in programs like SNAP and Medicaid because people often don’t want to admit that they need temporary help. That reluctance to speak up will only grow if the DHS changes are implemented—which seems to be the true desire of this heartless and discriminatory proposal.

This proposal will, if implemented, deter those who desperately need assistance with meeting their daily and healthcare needs. It has already had a chilling effect on the undocumented among us and even legal immigrants. Both groups are already avoiding public programs like CHIP (which is exempted from the final rule) and this has negative ripple effects on the healthcare market as a whole. Experts also warn that it will negatively impact large public health concerns, for things as far-reaching as the upcoming flu season. If immigrants are reluctant to access healthcare and get flu shots, we will all be at greater risk for the flu—which means there will be more flu cases and carriers. This circumstance could be replicated in other public health concerns, including HIV/AIDS, hunger, and substance abuse.

DHS’ changes will compromise children’s health, nutrition and development; impact access to health care for legal immigrants and citizens alike; reduce housing options; and negatively affect our local economies. Incentivizing certain communities to remain silent about domestic violence, hunger, public health dangers, addiction disorders, infectious diseases, social injustice, gun and gang violence harms the entire Hudson Valley and all Americans.

Hudson Valley Community Services urges all concerned citizens to log a public comment on the DHS website before December 10, 2018 speaking out against the proposed changes to the nations immigration policy:

Please lend your voice and opinion on this issue by visiting the link above and lodging an original, personalized comment. Though it would be easier to “cut and paste” a response, the Federal Register only counts original comments (comments using the exact same words are counted as one comment, regardless of the number of comments). You have until December 10th to make your voice heard.

We also urge Federal, state and local lawmakers to lend their voice in opposition to this dehumanizing and marginalizing proposal that weakens our social fabric and American values.
A wide array of organizations and groups share our perspective on these damaging regulatory changes. If you would like more resources and information, please call (914) 785-8326 and we will be glad to share those with you.

Fill Chill Food Drive Party Returns On Nov 16

November 7th, 2018

Fill Chill 2018Chill Wine Bar in Beacon is hosting once again their annual “Fill Chill” food drive and dance party, with the 2018 event slated for Friday, November 16th starting at 8:00 pm. Drop off a few cans or packages of non-perishable food to help stock HVCS’ food closets for the holidays–heck, why not bring a whole bag of food? The closets also accept donations of toiletries and household cleaning products. Everyone who donates an item (or more) will be entered into a door prize drawing. You’ll also have the chance to enter the 50/50 raffle.

To keep things in the holiday spirit, Prephab, the region’s premiere DJ duo, will be spinning fun music ranging from disco to pop to dance. Chill will have their selection of wines and bottled beers available, plus their bar snack menu featuring paninis and cheese platters. Chill will donate a portion of sales to HVCS so make sure to eat and drink up!

Chill is located at 173 Main Street in Beacon. Please join us for a relaxing and heartwarming start to your Thanksgiving week festivities!