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  WINDY CITY TIMES

AIDS organization changes name for 'broadening' mission
by Matt Simonette
2015-09-06

This article shared 4680 times since Sun Sep 6, 2015
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AIDS Legal Council of Chicago, an organization dedicated to advocacy on behalf of persons impacted by HIV/AIDS, has changed its name in order to better reflect the current scope of its services.

The organization will heretofore be known as Legal Council for Health Justice ( "the Council" ), better reflecting additional initiatives that the organization has focused on recently. According to officials, HIV/AIDS-related legal services to will not be reduced or otherwise impacted by the change. Instead, ALCC's organizational resources will be merged with those of two other organizations, Homeless Outreach Project and Chicago Medical-Legal Partnership for Children; all three projects will continue to exist under the Council's auspices.

Executive Director Tom Yates said the name change reflected a broadening of the organization's mission to include children contending with chronic disabilities and persons experiencing homelessness.

"The concepts between all three projects are very similar," said Yates. "We tend to work with medical providers a lot. Just to use [the Council] as an example, we have staff out at the CORE Center every week. We have staff at Howard Brown every other week, and I'm hopeful that soon we have staff at Howard Brown for a day-and-a-half every week because there's so much legal need there. We have staff that goes to Mercy, TPAN, Austin Health Center on the West Side. … When we brought in these two other projects, we thought we needed an umbrella name."

All three programs will continue to "have their identities," he added, noting, "Our budget is bigger. We've probably doubled in size in the last 15 months. My goal is to have more resources in [the Council] just as we have more resources in the other projects."

The organization has an annual budget of just under $2 million, according to Development Director Kevin Mork.

The Council has historically assisted persons impacted by HIV/AIDS with numerous legal complications they might face, including insurance refusals and work and housing discrimination claims.

"This is a population that [often] lives in poverty," Yates said. "Sometimes they are isolated and stigmatized. We see real challenges, and I think this population is as susceptible to those as any. For example, we see the state of Illinois starting to make budget cuts; they're in the budget impasse right now where they're not making payments. So we see huge problems with people accessing adequate health care [but] the issues run the gamut."

About 50 percent of their work is assisting people in accessing public benefits. "They get cut off because they didn't turn a form in that the Department of Human Services [actually] lost or didn't process," Yates noted. "Keeping people eligible so they can keeping going to the doctor and keeping getting treatment is vital. We don't want the people to have gaps."

An important part of that work, now extended to other vulnerable populations, is making sure that the agency can quickly provide answers and assistance for every inquiry.

"We have people who see clients in medical settings," he explained. "You don't have to call a number or wait for an interview. There's someone at Howard Brown, and the staff there can schedule an appointment with a lawyer or paralegal there. Our homeless team goes to Cook County [Hospital's] psych department on Fridays. They can see clients there and go to shelters … same with our kids' problems. Our sense is that a lot of our clients wouldn't know they have a legal problem but for the fact someone tells them it's a legal problem, not a medical one. The other part of it is, we try to answer the phone when people call here. We're not perfect at it, but we try really hard. Our goal is to not have people wait."


This article shared 4680 times since Sun Sep 6, 2015
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