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PRC receives federal grants

by Charlie Wagner

A San Francisco-based nonprofit that serves people living with HIV/AIDS and other conditions will receive $3.4 million in federal grants to help provide programs for those with substance use issues who are HIV-positive or at risk of contracting HIV or hepatitis C.

Positive Resource Center has been awarded grants from two divisions of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, the first time the nonprofit has received direct federal funding from it.

The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration will provide $2.5 million ($500,000 annually for five years), for PRC's Baker Places program called Substance Use Treatment HIV Enhancement, or SUTHE. The program provides substance use disorder treatment for racial and ethnic minority populations at high risk for HIV/AIDS.

Separately, the Health Resources and Services Administration has awarded PRC $900,000 ($300,000 annually for three years) that will help fund what HHS calls a Special Project of National Significance. Its goal is to improve HIV health outcomes through the coordination of supportive employment and housing services.

PRC's federal funding has usually been channeled through the city of San Francisco and state of California, said PRC Chief Executive Officer Brett Andrews. These direct grants, Andrews believes, confirm the strength of PRC's diverse services.

"This critical funding will help PRC improve health outcomes for this vulnerable community of individuals," he said.

The SUTHE program will integrate HIV testing, hepatitis testing and vaccinations, primary care, HIV case management, and HIV prevention into PRC's existing Joe Healy Detoxification Program. The SAMHSA grant will provide 11 percent of the program's funding.

SUTHE will link HIV-positive individuals to primary care and antiretroviral treatment, following up at six months to track adherence to treatment. Andrews said the goal is having 80 percent of participants remain for the six-month follow-up survey.

Through this longer-term participation, the program hopes to increase the number of people in treatment for HIV who maintain fully suppressed viral loads. Andrews expects the program will serve 1,382 people over the five-year period.

New programming
For the Special Project of National Significance, PRC will implement a new programming mode called integrative health analysis, which screens targeted individuals for detrimental social determinants and improves them via social services offered by PRC or partner agencies. The project will evaluate a host of social determinants, including employment and housing status.

Activities will take place mainly at two housing sites in San Francisco that receive federal funding. One is operated by Lutheran Social Services of Northern California and the other by Larkin Street Youth Services. Integrated processes will be used to coordinate client access to HIV primary care and ensure continuity of care as residents exit funded housing programs.

The project will increase data sharing between agencies while building greater efficiencies and providing a replicable model for similar cities. That is why both Lutheran Social Services and Larkin Street Youth Services provided letters of support for the grant application.

"We're excited about the opportunity to bring a deeper level of services to a vulnerable population," Sherilyn Adams, executive director of Larkin Street, said in response to the B.A.R.'s request for comment. "PRC has an excellent reputation and has been a strong long-term partner for Larkin Street. We're pleased to see new federal investments in this work and to continue to work with PRC to make additional supports available to young people with HIV/AIDS, complimenting our continuum of services at Larkin Street."

Lutheran Social Services officials did not return a message seeking comment.

As part of the project, PRC will produce an HIV housing guide to help both program clients and other HIV-positive individuals in the city access stable and secure housing. Andrews said the completion goal is late 2018.

PRC started as the AIDS Benefits Counselors in 1987 when a group of attorneys and Social Security workers noticed friends with HIV applying for Social Security benefits and getting turned down. Those who apply on their own have about a 33 percent success rate, according to Andrews, but "our current success rate is about 90 percent. And we take all referrals."

In 1992, supporters of an organization called the Life Center founded another organization they called Positive Resources, to help long-term HIV survivors thinking about their futures for the first time in years as better treatments became available.

"As they stabilized their lives," Andrews said, "they wanted to return to the workforce."

Later PRC and ABC merged.

Last year, PRC merged with the AIDS Emergency Fund, which provides financial assistance to qualifying people living with HIV/AIDS, and Baker Places.

Even before the special project grant, PRC had worked with both Lutheran Social Services and Larkin Street. But now their collaboration, enhanced by the grant, can utilize PRC's skill in data collection and management.

"The SPNS grant is a 'demonstration grant,'" Andrews explained. "PRC will endeavor to prove our hypothesis that more effective data sharing will increase the effectiveness of all organizations involved. Significant efficiencies can be gained. The whole result becomes greater than the parts."

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