Archive for the ‘News’ Category

Project Reach Out Now Offering STD Screenings

Thursday, 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.

New Services To Curb Recidivism In Westchester Jails

Wednesday, February 6th, 2019

Interactive journalingOn January 1, 2019, Hudson Valley Community Services launched a new program at the Westchester County Jail–a venue that we haven’t been to in a long time. Back then we were doing HIV prevention work, but this new program is entirely different. The goal of our Cognitive Behavioral Intervention program, known as CBI, is to help people who have been in and out of jail several times in the course of their lives to take stock, examine their past behavior, and begin to map out a future that allows them to reach their full potential.

Two HVCS employees run four-week interactive journaling groups for inmates with high rates of recidivism, along with individual interventions and transitional planning. The sessions guide inmates through a process to sift through their past, then learn and practice strategies for self-change. Participants will learn how to challenge and change their self-talk and practice decision-making and problem-solving skills.

HVCS is excited to be offering this new program for yet another marginalized group of people often cast aside by society. The program is funded by the New York State Division of Criminal Justice Services.

Alert: NYS SNAP Benefits & Government Shutdown

Monday, 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

Friday, 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

Wednesday, 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!

Audi Hawthorne Is Collecting Donations For HVCS

Monday, November 5th, 2018

Audi Hawthorne donation drop zone

Audi Hawthorne, which opened its doors just over a year ago, has become a donation drop zone to support HVCS! General Manager Nick Belli and his staff are collecting donated goods for the months of November and December, including non-perishable foods and warm winter gear. Everyone from the community is invited to stop by the service department to drop off items for our food closets. Audi Hawthorne is also taking in donated hats, gloves, scarves and socks, which will be distributed to clients of the Project Reach Out program who are unstably housed or homeless.

Most-requested items from our food closet clients include:

  • soups
  • pasta and other packaged grains
  • canned fruits and vegetables
  • tuna
  • peanut butter
  • cereals and oatmeal
  • instant mashed potatoes
  • holiday meal ingredients such as stuffing and cranberry sauce
  • fruit juices (boxed or canned)
  • boxed milk (Parmalait)

Visit our Food Closet page to learn more.

Audi Hawthorne is located at 151 Saw Mill River Road (Route 9A) in Hawthorne, within a mile of HVCS’ headquarters. Special thanks to our neighbors at Audi for stepping up to support our programs!

Treo Donates 180+ Cases To HVCS

Friday, November 2nd, 2018
Rob from Treo and J. from HVCS

Rob, warehouse manager for Treo Brands, with J. Dewey, HVCS’ Director of Public Relations & Resource Enhancement

Treo delivery vanTreo, a relatively new beverage company, contacted HVCS with an amazing offer: they had over 180 cases of their product, in three different flavors, that needed a home. They had recently rebranded, streamlining their packaging, and needed to make room in the warehouse for the newly designed bottles. The beverages dressed in the old look, however, were still drinkable (and delicious). HVCS offered to distribute the cases of Treo on our mobile outreach vans, including Project Reach Out and our syringe exchange vans. A few weeks ago, we took the PRO van to the company’s warehouse in Port Chester and filled it with Treo!

Treo is an organic birch water (that’s right–sort of like maple syrup or coconut water) infused with fruit flavors. It’s also sweetened with stevia so it’s low-cal. The PRO and SEP teams have already begun handing out the product to clients. Most of these clients are unstably housed or have no home, and they appreciate any free food or beverages. Offering them a snack or bottle of Treo helps build trust and establish a rapport–and hopefully they’ll keep in touch with us for their healthcare and service needs. We are grateful to Treo Brands for thinking of HVCS’ programs and making this generous donation a reality!

Thank You Pleasantville Moms!

Friday, November 2nd, 2018

Members of HVCS' staff with the donationAs cold weather threatens, the job for HVCS’ Project Reach Out team gets tougher. Life is also tougher for PRO’s clients, who are mostly unstably housed or homeless. It takes more work to find them, and it’s harder to engage them in the HIV prevention and addiction services that PRO offers. That’s where a warm cup of cocoa and a snack can make a huge difference!

Members of a “Pleasantville Moms” Facebook group recently banded together to donate several boxes of ready-mix hot cocoa, along with cookies and chips. The PRO team will be able to build trust and more easily engage their clients by offering them a hot drink on a cold day. And the donations keep coming! Thank you to the women who donated these products. A cup of cocoa is a small gesture but makes a big impact on those who may not have a warm place to live. By staying in touch with the PRO team, we improve their connection to healthcare and support services and can work together towards a brighter future.

Pictured: HVCS’ J. Dewey, Director of Public Relations & Resource Enhancement; Edgar Peralta, Project Reach Out Lower Hudson Senior Prevention Specialist; Anzie Roberts, Project Reach Out Lower Hudson Prevention Specialist.

New Video: You’re Invited to The Most Important Meal!

Wednesday, October 17th, 2018

Hudson Valley Federal Credit Union’s Lisa Morris invites you and your family to The Most Important Meal, a fundraiser for the food pantries at Hudson Valley Community Services! Enjoy an all-you-can-eat cereal buffet while helping local people living with chronic illnesses. Join us on Sunday, Oct 28th from 9:30 to noon at Fishkill Recreation!

Criminal Justice Initiative Now Offering Hep C Linkage & Support

Wednesday, October 10th, 2018
Our Criminal Justice Initiative, which provides HIV education and linkage to care for those incarcerated in NY state prisons in Sullivan County, recently received an enhancement to include Hepatitis C (HCV) services.
Our new HCV Linkage Specialist will work with known HCV+ individuals within the correctional facilities, including an action plan for their treatment, working with the medical unit in each prison, and making referrals to medical care. Our staff will also provide transitional planning for those being released from prison so that they can remain linked to care, housing and other services. The Linkage Specialist will identify any barriers that HCV+ incarcerated individuals might have to seeking treatment and help them to overcome those obstacles.
Medical staff within New York State’s Department of Corrections & Community Supervision report large numbers of incarcerated individuals who are HCV+, so we are grateful to be offering this service.