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A Steel Town Organization Gets Energized at a Southern Convening

By Christina Farmartino, MPH, CPH
Executive Director, The Open Door, Inc.

Dana Davis, PhD, MSW
Board President, The Open Door, Inc.

We, The Open Door, Inc., have the honor and privilege of being funded by AIDS United's Retention in Care Initiative, supported by MAC AIDS Fund.  The Open Door, Inc. is a supportive housing program and an innovative, cost-effective, and replicable approach to engaging and retaining highly marginalized populations in HIV-related care.

We recently attended a convening in Atlanta, Georgia for all grantees of the Access to Care Initiative and are so thankful for the experience! We are passionate about improving the clinical outcomes and quality of life of the people we serve, and were anxious to share our best practices and learn from other providers so that more high-risk people living with HIV can be reached. Going in, we expected to learn more about other grantee programs, the Affordable Care Act, sustainability and how the various pieces fit into the scope of our work. We learned more than we could have ever hoped for and were truly inspired by the work of others. We were amazed by the sincerity in everyone’s’ efforts, from the peers working on the ground to the AIDS United staff, to improving the lives of those living with HIV and to demonstrate new, innovative models of care.

We were ecstatic to hear Dr. Ed Gardner speak about developing the HIV Care Continuum, identifying gaps in care and retention, and demonstrating the concept of engagement in care as prevention. Engagement and retention in care are crucial tools in reducing the overall community viral load. We were so impressed with Linda Scruggs’ perspective and educational talk on peer work that we plan to invite her to our clinical partner’s office for the next women’s empowerment luncheon. We employ a staff of all peers; those living with HIV and/or in recovery, who are directly aligned with the health care and social service systems that clients need. When our clients find out that our staff members have shared their experiences of homelessness, addictions, barriers to HIV-related care, and mental health diagnoses, they understand that their own challenges can be overcome. Our peers work tirelessly and around the clock to support and advocate for our clients. She inspired us to make sure that our peers receive the same support and advocacy. Based on her recommendations, we plan to implement several self-care tools, professional trainings, and exercises for our peer navigators so that they can excel in our Retention in Care program and in their own lives.

We also enjoyed the Strategic Positioning for Community Based Organizations panel. In an unstable funding and political environment, it was extremely worthwhile for us to learn about ways to adapt to new policies, the benefits of mergers or strategic alliances, and sustainability. This talk inspired us to solidify our partnership with another local harm reduction agency and bring them to the table to discuss the potential benefits of a merger or strategic alliance. Overall, this energized us to not only improve our programs, but also to take new, innovative information to local, and state-wide planning groups! We are honored to be a part of an initiative with such innovative and successful programs and amazing, dedicated funders.

Thank you all for an amazing convening in Atlanta and for the ongoing support of the community we serve together! Find out more about our program at!

Posted By: Christina Farmartino, MPH, CPH Executive Director, The Open Door, Inc - Wednesday, June 18, 2014

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