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Why WithinReach?  Why Now?  

Written by Aliyah Hina Quraishi, Board member at WithinReach

When the opportunity to serve as a WithinReach Board member presented itself I asked these same questions, why WithinReach?  Why now? I was humbled to be considered among so many amazing and accomplished individuals.

This was not the first time I have been asked to join a Board.  In fact, I had already founded a nonprofit to answer one question for myself – How can I make more of a difference? 

“Making a difference” is a relative concept and means different things to different people. That’s what differentiates us from one another – the unique lens we bring to everything we do in life. But with ‘making a difference’, there is a common thread no matter what lens you use – empathy. 

For me, empathy is about caring, service, and compassion for others.  It is about caring enough to do something. To take action. To be a voice.

As a health care industry leader, I understand how challenging it can be for families to navigate our complex health and social service systems. I also know the motivation, dedication and innovative thinking required to change these systems of support across our state.

This is where WithinReach comes in. For over 30 years, WithinReach has turned empathy into action. And, it was the strategic nature of WithinReach’s action that drew me to the Board. 

There is a spirit of innovation in all WithinReach does. For instance, WithinReach embraces technology and uses it to better their programs and services in order to increase access to resources for vulnerable members of the community. WithinReach’s staff are certified navigators in the State, and coupled with their custom resource database, can enroll individuals and families in affordable health insurance and supplemental food programs, and connect them to other community-based resources. 

Whether it’s making sure kids have a healthy breakfast and can start the school day ready to learn, or providing parents with the tools they need to ensure their kids are meeting important, early developmental milestones, Withinreach is focused on helping families connect to all the resources they need to be healthy and safe.   

Washington State just concluded its open enrollment period for health insurance, and whether you are enrolling through your employer, as an individual or through Federal and State programs – health care coverage is complicated and confusing. WithinReach makes it easier, by helping people navigate the enrollment process with ease. WithinReach helped 3,110 of people get covered for health insurance in 2017. It’s not just about numbers – it’s about changing lives, like we see in Nathan’s Story.

I have witnessed the powerful impact that WithinReach has on the health and well-being of Washington families, and I am proud and humbled to be part of this work. As a WithinReach Board member and Ambassador, I want more people to know how WithinReach is helping create healthy, vibrant communities in Washington so that all families have the opportunity to thrive. 

I invite you to join me in making a difference for families in Washington – consider following WithinReach on Facebook to learn more, or better yet, join me on May 9th at Experience WithinReach, an interactive event designed to show you exactly what this great organization does. You will meet WithinReach staff and learn what this organization is doing every day to address urgent needs and create lasting impact.

 

 

Aliyah Hina Quraishi

Strategic Technology Leader at UnitedHealth Group/Optum | Board Member, WithinReach| Entrepreneur | Philanthropist | Proud owner of Shaggy

 

 

Tags: Aliyah Hin Quraashi   Board Perspective   Experience WithinReach   Get Involved   Health care   health insurance   Making a difference   WithinReach Board   

A Visit from KIND (Kids In Need of Defense)

Written by Meryl Safar, WithinReach Specialist, AmeriCorps

WithinReach Intercultural Competency Committee works to bring in guest organizations to inform our staff about their work, and how they’re making an impact in the community we all live in. Often times, these organizations give us insights into what our own clients might be facing. This helps us as a staff to better empathize with situations our clients might be in and to be able to refer them to the right services.

Last month we had the pleasure of hosting Kids in Need of Defense (KIND) at our Healthy Connections Team Meeting. Our presenters were Melody Young, Pro Bono Coordinating Attorney and Ellen Reed, Social Services Coordinator, who shared the organization’s origin and how they work to provide legal services for unaccompanied children. The legal classification of an unaccompanied child is someone that is under the age of 18 who has no immigration documentation, and has no parent or legal guardian that can provide care and physical custody at the time of the child’s arrival to the United States. Their work is crucial because in Washington State where no one, including children, has the right to legal representation in immigration court unlike other courts of law.

Legally unaccompanied children are not unaccompanied by choice. They are frequently escaping complex and varying situations of violence, neglect, and persecution in their home countries. Founded 10 years ago in part by celebrity Angelina Jolie and backed by Seattle’s own Microsoft, KIND has now grown into a nationwide organization. With field offices in multiple urban communities (Atlanta, Baltimore, Boston, Houston, L.A, Newark, New York City, San Fran, Seattle, WA DC), KIND has been able to connect with 14,542 referred children as of April, 2017. 477 legal professionals and associations function as partners in supporting the mission of KIND.

KIND actively works at all levels of the immigration system. They are directly involved in policy development and intentional lobbying for immigration reform. KIND representatives advocate on behalf of the children they serve to ensure equity in legal treatment. Furthermore, they protect unaccompanied children so that those children have access to the healthy futures they deserve. In order to achieve these goals KIND attorneys, alongside numerous volunteers and partners, work one-on-one with children to help navigate a multifaceted legal system.

Specifics for Seattle Field Office: KIND accepts referrals for children between the ages of 0-18. However, the majority their referrals are for children between 16-18 years old. Primary underlying cause of forced un-accompaniment for Seattle referrals is gang violence, domestic violence, violence against children living on the street and persecution.  

Referral Guidelines for KIND: Clients must live in King County or have supporting adults that work in the Seattle area. Clients also must be under 18 years old and meet the 200% of the federal poverty guideline income level. Cases are prioritized by level of urgency such as if a child is in removal proceedings.

How to refer someone to KIND: Call to start the referral process at (206) 359-2366. In the voicemail include the name of caller, name of child, reason for calling, country of residence, phone number, upcoming court dates, and name of referral agency (if applicable).

Volunteering with KIND: With their service to many unaccompanied children from South America, KIND works with bilingual volunteers to help translate between attorney and child. Here at WithinReach, one of our Bilingual Specialists on our Healthy Connections Team, Bradley Mills, volunteers for KIND as an Assistant to the Case legal interpreter. During his time at KIND, he has assisted many children with interpreting complicated legal lingo and providing translating support to attorneys, children and their families and caretakers. As a volunteer, he follows specific cases and interprets whatever phone calls or documents may arise along the way. Bradley, and volunteers like him, call families with the attorney present and asks for further information while navigating family situations. When going over complex legal documents with children, volunteers and attorneys try to bring normalcy to the child’s life by connecting with them about friends, hobbies, school, and family.

Bradley Mills with Ellen Reed, Social Services Coordinator and Melody Young, Pro Bono Coordinating Attorney 

 “It is hard to ask children to step up when they just want to be a kid.” -Bradley Mills

 

Referral statistics:

  • 75% of referrals, in the Seattle branch, come from Central American Countries such as El Salvador, Guatemala, and Honduras
  • Primary languages spoken: Spanish and Indigenous languages
  • 60% Of children arriving in the U.S. have no one to represent them in immigration court
  • Children without representation are five times more likely to be deported

In order to best provide holistic and sustainable support, KIND works to understand the child’s journey and incorporates the children’s personal stories into their work. An unaccompanied child faces barriers such as gender-based violence, deprivation, and often trauma. All of the barriers continue throughout the legal process, and are not restricted to the child’s journey to the United States. The deportation system for young children and people that do not have representation is incredibly limiting. Limitations such as language, legal vocabulary, background knowledge of the U.S legal systems, knowledge of what your status and requirements are, and fear of deportation are just a few of the barriers at play. Combine these barriers with the struggles of being a child in a foreign country, the children have an intensely arduous journey to physical, emotional, and social well-being. Every child deserves the opportunity to flourish without these barriers, and KIND works towards reducing the difficulties that these children face when confronting immigration court in the U.S.  

These statistics were provided to WithinReach staff at our December presentation from KIND and their 2017 Corporate Volunteer Fact Sheet. For more information about KIND and the work that they do, please visit https://supportkind.org/  or contact the KIND Seattle office at infoseattle@supportkind.org

 

Have experience with this topic that you’d like to share? Complete our Google Form Here!

 

Tags: AmeriCorps. Healthy Connections   community resources   ICC   Intercultural Competency   Kids In Need of Defense   KIND   

Filling the Gap: Food Resources for Families During Winter Break

Written by Rebecca Wolfe, WithinReach AmeriCorps Specialist

The holiday season is a fun and festive time, with parties to attend, gifts to shop for, and large meals to be shared. For many families, however, this can be a struggle. Free and reduced-price school meals have become a major source of nutrition for many children, and families often struggle to provide adequate food when these resources disappear over the winter holiday. As of the 2016-2017 school year, 473,309 students in Washington public schools were enrolled. That’s almost 43% of the student population. In Washington State, 1 in 5 children are a part of a household that struggles to put food on the table. For these kids, a school break can often make breakfast and lunch much harder to come by.

Here are a few ways to help fill in the gap:

Basic Food: If you are looking for food assistance, your household may be eligible for the Basic Food program, also known as SNAP, food stamps, and EBT. This program can be an excellent resource for families during the holidays and year-around. Your EBT card operates like a debit card and is loaded with a monetary benefit each month that can be used to purchase food. Most major grocery stores, including Safeway, QFC, Trader Joe’s, and Target, as smaller local and international markets are able to accept the funds.

Rollover Funds: An additional benefit of EBT is that unused funds will roll over from month to month. You can save up some extra dollars in anticipation of the winter holiday when the kids are home from school. You can also save up your EBT benefit to purchase a special holiday meal if you would like to. This is often particularly helpful for households with a low benefit amount. A $16 monthly benefit might not seem like much, but it can certainly add up over time and make it much easier to get food on the table over the holiday.

Fresh Bucks: Here in King County, we have an additional benefit to the Basic Food program called Fresh Bucks. The Fresh Bucks program doubles your dollars at farmers’ markets and some international markets nearby. When your $10 becomes $20, dinner is much more doable. Just swipe your EBT card at the information booth and you are on your way.

Food Banks: Food banks have gotten something of a bad rap over the years, reported to offer up a whole lot of canned goods and little else. While you can still get a can of beans if you would like to, many food banks have expanded far beyond this limited stock. In fact, many go out of their way to provide special holiday treats, such as egg-nog, candy canes, and spiral ham. Many also offer a wide range of produce, grains, meats, and other useful holiday items such as greeting cards and flowers. Just be sure to bring an ID and proof of address, such as a recent bill, so they can verify that you are utilizing the food bank meant for your zip code.

If you are interested in learning more about food resources for your family while the kids are off from school, please give us a call! We are available to answer questions and assist with applications via our Family Health Hotline at 1 (800) 322-2588. Our friendly staff is available from 8:00am-5:00pm Monday – Thursday, and Fridays from 8:00am-5:00pm. Additionally, if you need help locating a food bank or farmers market near you, you can also visit www.ParentHelp123.org

Happy Holidays from us here at WithinReach!

Tags: AmeriCorps   Basic Food   EBT   Family Health Hotline   food   Food banks   Fresh Bucks   holidays   Parent Help 123   

Health Insurance Open Enrollment Through January 15th 2018!

Post originally written by Cristina Cardenas, Outreach & Enrollment Specialist.

This year’s Open Enrollment period for health insurance in Washington state through the Washington Health Plan Finder continues through January 15, 2018. For health insurance plans that are active starting January 1st, a plan must be selected by Friday, December 15th, 2017.

With the deadline for coverage coming, here are some considerations to make while you are looking to purchase a Qualified Health Plan:

Your doctor
Do you have a specific doctor’s office or clinic in mind?
What plans are currently accepted by that doctor or clinic?

While picking an insurance plan, one of the most important factors is being able to use that insurance for services at a clinic or doctor’s office with which you would like to work. If you have a specific health clinic or provider in mind, you’ll want to make sure they accept the insurance you choose. While shopping on Washington Healthplanfinder, the health insurance marketplace for Washington state, you can check which insurance plans are accepted by clicking the “Who’s Shopping” box, located on the upper left-hand side of the QHP selection screen. You will be able to search by your provider’s name, hospital, or zip code. Be sure to call the office to confirm if the plan is accepted and get the most updated information!

Medical needs
Do you have any chronic health conditions or specialty care needs?
Are any of your typical medical needs listed under the excluded services?

Although all health insurance plans listed on the exchange are required to cover the Ten Essential Benefits, you’ll want to spend some time looking into the details of the plans you are considering to see what other services may or may not be covered. This is especially important if you have any specific medical needs or services you know you will be seeking. You’ll want to make sure the plan you pick is going to work the best for you and your health.
To see more details about the plan, click the link that says “More information on this plan,” located under the name of each plan option on the shopping page of Washington Healthplanfinder.

Cost considerations
What is your monthly budget for health insurance?
Are there any tax credits and/or cost-sharing available to you?

There are many factors to consider when deciding which health insurance plan might be most affordable for you or your family. Every plan has a different amount for what you must pay from your own pocket before the insurance company will help you pay for your healthcare. There are five insurance payment terms to keep in mind:

  • Premium—the monthly payment you make to ensure you have coverage.
  • Deductible—the amount you will need to pay yourself for healthcare services before the insurance company starts to pay for healthcare costs.
  • Copayment—An amount you pay for a covered healthcare service after the deductible has been met. This may vary depending on the service.
  • Co-Insurance—the percentage of the bill you are responsible for before the deductible is reached. For example, a 20% co-insurance means that you pay 20% of the bill and the insurance company pays 80%.
  • Out-of-Pocket Max—the maximum amount you can pay in a year. After this is reached, all covered services will be paid for by the insurance company

At first glance, a low monthly premium might seem like the most affordable option, but these plans tend to come with a higher deductible. That means that if you have an unplanned medical need or accident, you may end up paying more out of your own pocket since the deductible needs to be met before the insurance company will help you pay.
You might also qualify for help paying for your insurance through government subsidies. If your income is under 400% of the federal poverty level (or $8,200/month for a family of four), you may qualify for tax credits that help pay for the monthly premium, or cost-sharing reduction to help reduce your out of pocket expenses!
On Washington Healthplanfinder, you are able to customize your search using the categories on the left-hand side and narrow your selections to plans within the range of what you may be comfortable paying. You can also see more detailed information about the cost

Plan flexibility
What is the size of the network for this plan?
Do I have to stay “in-network?
Will I need a referral to see a specialist?

Another aspect to keep in mind while picking a health insurance plan is the type of network available to you. The plan network includes physicians, hospitals, and other healthcare providers that have agreed to provide medical services at pre-negotiated prices and rates. There are three different categories:

  • Health Maintenance Organization (HMO)—This type of plan limits coverage to care from doctors who work for the insurance organization. Services by providers outside of the network will most likely not be covered. Your doctor, or primary care physician as they are usually called, will help to coordinate your care and provide referrals to see specialists.
  • Preferred Provider Organization (PPO)—In this type of plan, you will save more money seeking services from providers who are part of the plan’s network. You can see doctors, hospitals, and/or specialist outside of the network without a referral, but they may end up costing you more.
  • Exclusive Provider Organization (EPO)—This plan will require you to see providers within the network to have your services covered. Any services by out-of-network providers will not be covered.

Each of these types of plans have their pros and cons, so to help you make a decision, you’ll want to ask yourself how flexible you would like your health insurance plan to be.

Even with a list of questions to help you find the best plan, we here at WithinReach realize that it can still be overwhelming to sift through all the information. That is why we are here to help! By calling our Family Health Hotline at 1 (800) 322-2588, we can walk you through the whole application process and help you narrow down your plan options! 

WithinReach ICC Updates: COFA Migrants

[Image Right: U.S. Commodore Ben Wyatt addresses inhabitants of Bikini Atoll in 1946, moments before they were removed and relocated. (Carl Mydans/Time)]

Introducing a New Blog Category!

At WithinReach we have committed to improving overall health and health equity as one of our Strategic Direction priorities. For the last decade here at WithinReach, we have had an internal staff committee, the Intercultural Competence Committee (ICC), dedicated to recognizing, respecting, and responding to diversity within ourselves, our organization, and our community. Cultural competence at WithinReach is a commitment to promoting equity through culturally responsive evolution of behavior, policy, and organizational structure. We are working to foster awareness and appreciation of the diversity of our clients, our partners and ourselves. All policies and programs reflect WithinReach’s value of cultural responsiveness and promote health equity.

Every month we have an internal staff training and discussion on a different topic pertaining to the diversity and inclusion of different groups in our community. We hope to use this new blog category to share back with you what we, our community partners, and our leaders are learning and talking about! We are dedicated to the work that we think is important to our community.

Next week, we are looking forward to hosting this quarter’s Washington Coalition on Medicaid Outreach (WCOMO) in Federal Way with the topic of Health Insurance and accessibility for The Compact of Free Association (COFA) migrants in our community. Last year, several of our Outreach staff attended the COFA Community Forum and learned about the history of the The Compact of Free Association Treaty and history with the United States. Currently, COFA migrants are excluded from accessing federal programs like Medicaid. This quarter’s WCOMO panel will feature a discussion with Michael Itti, Executive Director, Washington State Commission on Asian Pacific American Affairs (CAPAA)   and Senator Rebecca Saldaña, Senator from the 37th Legislative District about the current state of health care access for COFA migrants and the upcoming legislative session for bills HB 1291 and SB 5683 and what could change. 

For more information on COFA migrants and history, see below!

Comprehensive background article on the history of nuclear testing in COFA nations and present-day situation (Washington Post)

Migration history from COFA territories (Mother Jones)

The legacy of radiation exposure in Micronesia(Social Medicine)

Tags: COFA   COFA migrants   Health   Health Equity   health insurance   ICC   Intercultural Competency   

Podcast: Breastfeeding Equity with Kimberly Seals Allers

WithinReach podcast

Hear from Kimberly Seals Allers, author and advocate for breastfeeding health equity, about the challenges breastfeeding moms face in the United States. It’s not just an issue of support in and outside of the hospital, but a more complex issue of big business, equity, and cultural norms on this episode of the WithinReach Podcast.

Learn more about Kimberly Seals Allers and her work.

Tags: Breastfeeding   Health Equity   Kimberly Seals Allers   podcast   WithinReach Podcast   

A New Year of Service: AmeriCorps 2017-2018

Written by Rebecca Wolfe and Samuel Massion, WithinReach AmeriCorps Outreach & Enrollment Specialists

There are eight new members of the WithinReach AmeriCorps team. We all have different stories and different histories that we bring with us into this year of service. Each of us has a particular sense of self that is now situated within the context of this place—this organization, this city, this country, this world. This year will be a year full of opportunities; a year to expand our knowledge, grow as individuals, and serve our community. WithinReach is an organization with more than 6000 resources available to the people of Washington, specializing in food access, healthcare access, immunizations, transportation, and child development. So, as the new kids on the block, we have a lot to learn. We’re here, though, and we’re really excited about it.

In our training these last few weeks we have talked a lot about the “social determinants of health”—those non-biological, non-genetic factors that affect our health. This includes things like the quality and consistency of our food, our access to medical care, whether and how we are employed, and our level of education. Recent studies have shown that a person’s zip code is as predictive of health outcomes as is their genetic code. We can’t change our genetics, but we can make healthy food and quality healthcare more accessible. One simple interaction—a conversation, an application, or a resource that informs our community and facilitates access to social services—can turn a “determinant” of health into an “influence.” We can provide a bridge to the services that can help mitigate a particular point of stress—preventing unsurmountable healthcare costs, providing travel from point A to point B, or putting dinner on the table that night. These small shifts can make a big impact, changing circumstances for the better and offering hope for a healthier future.

The AmeriCorps team members are some of the first at WithinReach to start our training with our organization’s new client intake system, called REACH. REACH is a screening tool developed by Health Leads for hospital settings, with WithinReach acting as the program’s first non-clinical setting. Using this in conjunction with our iPad technology offers us the tools to identify multiple needs, analyze trends in our area, and to address issues as needed. Now, with the new technology, we have the means to provide in depth follow ups for better client care coordination. REACH fosters a holistic approach to helping clients, leading us in a conversation that makes sure both participants are acting as and being seen as full and whole humans.

This human experience is something that all of us are excited about. We are already improving our social skills, learning new patterns of communication. We are learning not to assume things about our clients, allowing them agency and self-determination as they tell us their story. We are learning to meet people where they are at—physically, mentally, emotionally, and socially. We are learning to listen, seeking first to understand. We are learning to ask questions, to rely on each other, and to grow together in this process. We are learning to take on the attributes of our organizational mission—to be friendly, informed, and responsive. This collaborative experience has already been enriching and rewarding, and we are grateful for it. 

Each of us are planning to pursue a different area of health and social service after our year here. We know that the people we meet and the things that we learn will inform each of our journeys moving forward. And we  all look forward to continuing to learn more from the people  we work with, both in and out of our office.

We know that there is much to be done in this field of work. We know that we cannot help everyone or solve everything, and sometimes that feels overwhelming. We know that we can’t change the world by helping one person, but we can help change something in that person’s world. We can make a difference for the person sitting in front of us. That matters, and we are excited about it.

If you or someone you know is interested in assistance from WithinReach or would like to look for resources in person with one of our AmeriCorps Outreach and Enrollment Specialists, call our Family Health Hotline today at 1 (800) 322-2588

Tags: AmeriCorps   AmeriCorps Outreach   Healthy Connections   Outreach   ServeWA   

A continued conversation with Jessika Houston, Arc of Whatcom County

At WithinReach, we get to engage with families who are on a wide spectrum of places in their journey with a diagnosis of a special health or developmental need. Sometimes a family is just learning of a diagnosis prenatally, and sometimes they have many years of experience. The Arc of Washington and its nine regional chapters are excellent resources for families who are looking to connect around developmental disabilities, wherever they are on their journey.

We spoke with Jessika Houston, Down syndrome Outreach and Young Adult Self-Advocacy Coordinator at the Arc of Whatcom County to learn more about how she works with individuals and families with developmental disabilities:

“Down syndrome Outreach is a program that exists for individuals with Down syndrome, their family members, friends and caregivers from birth through life. We provide resources, information, advocacy support, and connect families and individuals in our community to support one another on their journey. There are annual support events specific to Down syndrome Outreach (DsO), such as the Buddy Walk in October and the Spring Fling in May.

On World Down syndrome Day (which is March 21), our community helps to bring awareness to their schools and work places about Down syndrome. The goal is to focus on honoring and appreciating our differences, all of them, and therefore encouraging the celebration of our differences and bringing support to all ages. In Whatcom County, there is a vision of change and inclusion for future generations. This has really determined the focus of an aspect of the work I do with DsO, which is to support new families.

When I started at The Arc I heard from our community the need to strengthen the supports for new families with a diagnosis of Down syndrome. There are many misconceptions and stereotypes about people with disabilities, and as Down syndrome is a chromosomal condition, we are able to learn of the diagnosis in the prenatal and postnatal stages.

The opportunity to provide support and resources at the time of diagnosis is one that historically has been missed in the Down syndrome community worldwide. In addition, many families have experienced negative interactions when receiving the diagnosis, with a lack of support and resources.

If families receive the diagnosis and then are told to seek out their own resources, they are vulnerable to inaccurate and prejudicial information. This does not fully engage and support this new family. Despite the challenges, countless families and self-advocates have been propelled from their experiences and helped to create policy which has shifted the dynamic in which families receive support.

In June 2016 in Washington State, the Down syndrome Information Act was passed in legislature. The law came forth because self-advocates spoke out about the impact on their families, and their vision of necessary support to new families.

The 2016 Down syndrome Information Act states: Medical Professionals are to provide materials to families at time of birth or pre-natal stages in delivering a likelihood of a diagnosis. Medical professionals affected by this bill are: midwife, osteopathic physician and surgeon & osteopathic physician’s assistant, physician & physician assistant, nurse, genetic counselor, hospitals, birthing centers & anyone/place in above categories that provide a parent with a prenatal or postnatal diagnosis. The WA State Department of Health has been working in response to this Law, and I have had the chance to connect with them in detail to discuss how we can ensure it is accessible and followed through by medical professionals in Washington State.

This past March, we held a statewide webinar regarding this issue. I am so grateful for the opportunity to be a part of something that we can now utilize as a resource supporting new families across the state. It has been incredible to see different communities and organizations from all over Washington come together to connect about these important issues to empower families and improve systems of care and support.

Before this law was passed, connecting with medical professionals and providing resources to them about this condition, is something I worked to bring to our local community. I have had the chance to present to various meetings with obstetricians, nurses, and midwives, and will continue this work as practitioners become more familiar with this new law. The main message I hope to convey to medical professionals is that the support, resources, and language that is used to give the diagnosis greatly impacts how the family will view their child and how they will utilize the resources available to them.

Through this work I have learned that by opening up our perspectives and working to be a resource, we are able to create systems of support that will sustain through time. They will persevere, find strength and challenges in new and unexpected ways and help transform thinking that includes all abilities and backgrounds.”

You can find more information about this work at the Department of Health here: http://www.doh.wa.gov/YouandYourFamily/InfantsandChildren/HealthandSafety/GeneticServices/DownSyndrome

And read more about the programs at the Arc of Whatcom County here: http://arcwhatcom.org/

 

Tags: Advocacy   care   community resources   Developmental support   diagnosis   Disability   Down syndrome   Down syndrome Information Act states   Down syndrome Outreach   education programs   empower   families   improve systems   intellectual & developmental disabilities   Medical Professionals   support   The Arc   Washington state   Whatcom County   Young Adult   

Family and Professional Connections: Promoting Self Advocacy at the Arc of Whatcom County

Through our work with special health and developmental resources, WithinReach has had the great pleasure to partner with agencies such as the Arc of Washington. The Arc is part of a national network dedicated to advocacy, community building, and resource referral for individuals with developmental disabilities and their families. Washington has nine chapters in King, Snohomish, Whatcom, Cowlitz, Grays Harbor, Kitsap/Jefferson, Spokane, Benton/Franklin, and Clark counties.

Part of the advocacy work that the Arc does is to support the perspective and rights of self-advocates, who are individuals with disabilities. To hear more about this important work, we reached out to Jessika Houston, Down syndrome Outreach and Young Adult Self-Advocacy Coordinator at the Arc of Whatcom County. Jessika was gracious to share with us her personal connection to this work, and what it means to her to be in this role:

“My work at The Arc directly relates to my personal life, as I am the sister of a young adult with Down syndrome, Mike. Mike has truly been one of the largest sources of inspiration for me and the path I have taken. I could not be more grateful for him in my life, for all that he has taught me and my family. From him I have learned persistence, patience, compassion, acceptance, resilience, will and grace, and the beauty of living in the moment. When I think of the strengths of living in a neurodiverse family, it comes back to those qualities in him that he has the ability to teach everyone that crosses his path. With him, there have always been moments that we wish we could just capture and visit any time we wanted – the moments that make you love life and trust exactly where you are.

And, in thinking of the challenges – those same qualities can come through, in a different light. The moments when Mike is so frustrated, trying to find the way to articulate what he needs or wants, and seems so tired and overwhelmed with…persisting, having patience…when acceptance of the situation cannot happen and the will takes over…those times are when you wish the moment would just end. There are also challenges that come from those that may not know about Down syndrome and how to engage someone with a disability. Yet, it is the moments of challenge that seem to inspire me the most.

After he was born, I found myself asking questions like: Why are people so afraid of what is different? How can I help? How can I learn about other perspectives? How can I be a resource to my family, my brother, my community?

I first learned of The Arc when I worked as a Living Skills Specialist for a supported living agency in Bellingham. My brother, without knowing it, inspired me to work there so I could learn more about what life as an adult can look like, how to advocate with and for someone, learn about independent living, how to help navigate the supports in someone’s life and discover what resources exist in the community.

In the Young Adult Self Advocates program, we talk about our visions, our goals and aspirations, and acknowledge the challenges and barriers that might exist. Self-Advocates are involved in community awareness projects, as well as focus on their individual skill building. They are also passionate about advocating in legislation for their individual needs, which also reflects needs in our community such as employment, housing, recreation, caregiver wages, among others. They aim to “Be Proud. Be Strong. Be Heard.

If you are interested in learning more about the Arc of Whatcom County and the Young Adult Self Advocate program, visit http://arcwhatcom.org

Tags: Advocacy   community   community resources   Developmental support   Disability   Down syndrome   education programs   Independent living   intellectual & developmental disabilities   Resources   Special Health Care Needs   The Arc   Whatcom County   Young Adult   

Measles Outbreak in MN Shows King County is Vulnerable, Too

Guest post by Neil Kaneshiro, MD

Neil has been a pediatrician in Washington State for over two decades, and is currently serving as chair of the Immunization Action Coalition of Washington, which works to improve the health of the community by minimizing the incidence of vaccine preventable diseases through the optimal use of immunizations across the lifespan.

Vaccines have made a huge impact in protecting us from preventable diseases. But in some communities, immunization rates have dropped dramatically, creating the opportunity for diseases to return. A current outbreak in Minnesota shows what could happen in Washington.

Hennepin County in Minnesota is in the midst of a large outbreak of measles which is primarily affecting the Somali community there. There are over 60 cases at this point in time and the count is expected to rise because vaccination rates against measles in that community have plummeted from 92% in 2004 to just 42% in 2014. Measles is highly contagious and vaccination rates need to be well over 90% to prevent the spread of this horrible disease. It appears that the community was misinformed about the risks and benefits of measles vaccine by anti-vaccine celebrity Andrew Wakefield* who visited there on several occasions. Even in the face of overwhelming evidence based medicine showing vaccines are safe and effective, pediatricians and family physicians are confronted every day with parents who question vaccine safety and delay, defer or refuse one or more recommended vaccines.

Vaccine advocates are concerned about families who delay or decline vaccination because of outbreaks like the one currently active in Minnesota. With similar pockets of low immunization rates and regular measles exposures, King County is vulnerable to a similar outbreak. Although measles is much more likely to affect those unimmunized by choice, the vaccine is not 100% effective and measles can occur in a small percentage of people who did the right thing and got their vaccine. Also, there are those who are unimmunized because of medical condition or age since the vaccine is not recommended until 1 year of age.

First and foremost, vaccines protect those who receive them. But receiving vaccines in many cases also helps to protect your family, friends and neighbors from disease as well. Talk to your doctor about keeping up to date in child and adult vaccinations (yes, adults need vaccines too). If everyone eligible for vaccines got immunized, we would be a healthier community.

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*For those who don’t know, Andrew Wakefield is the researcher from the United Kingdom who tried to link MMR (measles, mumps and rubella) vaccine and autism. But his research has been discredited and his medical license revoked. Extensive research has shown that there is no link between vaccines and autism. Leading autism advocates including Alison Singer, president of the Autism Science Foundation have concluded that vaccines do not cause autism

Tags: families   healthy communities   Immunization   King County   Measles   Minnesota   preventable disease   Protect   vaccine   Washington   

Tax Season is Here!

Written by Becca Reardon, AmeriCorps Outreach & Enrollment Specialist

When you hear “tax season,” what do you think of? Probably not anything super-positive. But what if “tax season” meant that you would be assisted by a team whose goal was to get you the best refund possible AND to explore ways to improve your quality of life? Sounds pretty good! Luckily for individuals and families in King and Snohomish counties making less than $64,000 a year, that’s exactly what the United Way Free Tax Prep Campaign does.

UWKC has been offering free tax preparation to the community since 2003, and their ultimate goal is to help put some of our hard-earned money back into our savings accounts come springtime. One of the best tools they use–one that was designed specifically to help lift low- and moderate-income houses out of poverty–is the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC). This credit primarily benefits individuals and couples within certain income brackets who have qualifying dependents, although others can access it as well. Last year in their 2016 campaign, UWKC filed 21,750 returns, earning their clients about $29.1 million in refunds. Of this, $9.4 million came from the EITC.

As if having someone else doing your taxes for free isn’t enough, UWKC goes a couple steps further. First of all, their service is accessible and low-barrier, which means that those in the most need can get help. UWKC has 27 sites in King County, from Shoreline to Federal Way, out to Bellevue and Renton. These sites have varying hours and days, from early morning to late evenings and even weekends. Many of their tax preparers are bilingual, so language isn’t a roadblock for those seeking help. And for those of us who are somewhat antisocial and were reared by technology (here’s looking at you, 20-somethings), UWKC also offers an online option that will allow you to e-file yourself for free.

So where does WithinReach fit into tax returns? A simple screening questionnaire at intake can quickly determine if families feel like they have enough to eat, if they can pay their utility bills, or if they have healthcare needs. These issues are much more up our alley, and that is where we can address creating healthy futures for our community.

From November through January, our in-person team helped train the tax campaign’s Volunteer Intake & Benefits Specialists, or VIBS. These volunteers greet clients, manage paperwork, make sure everyone has the appropriate materials, and screen clients for possible programs. They then make referrals to our Healthy Connections Online portal in order for our staff to reach out and assist. We trained the VIBS on identifying food, health, and transportation needs, and some of the local public benefits that can help. This way, they can effectively screen clients for eligibility (using a handy-dandy UWKC screening tool) and make referrals to us, coaching their clients through how they will be contacted and what WithinReach can do for them. VIBS can also give clients information on utility assistance, credit pulls, and financial counseling.

Once we receive the referral from the VIBS, it is the job of our Outreach & Enrollment Specialists to reach out to the client within two business days. Once we get in contact with the client, we talk with them to determine what they feel they need and screen them for eligibility for a host of programs. There are a huge number of community resources out there, such as play and learn groups, food banks, and prescription assistance, that people aren’t accessing simply because they don’t know they exist. Our ParentHelp123 website can also be used by clients if they want to explore resources on their own.

To bring assistance even closer to these clients, our team of AmeriCorps Outreach & Enrollment Specialists will be attending four of the busier tax sites once a week through tax season– Lake City Neighborhood Service Center, Rainier Community Center, Burien Goodwill, and the Central Library. Instead of sending in a referral, our team can actually help clients on the spot.

The Tax Campaign aims to put money back into the pockets of low-income households across King county. This money can pay medical bills, help with groceries, keep the lights turned on, or be tucked away for later. This partnership between WithinReach and the UWKC tax sites aids with our own personal mission of making healthy futures attainable for families across Washington, by connecting them to the resources they need to be healthy and safe.

Tags: Basic Food   health insurance   United Way of King County   

A “Day On” With the University District Food Bank

Written by Annya Pintak, Outreach Manager
 On Monday January 16, I had the privilege of spending Martin Luther King Jr. Day volunteering with our AmeriCorps Team as part of United Way of King County’s MLK Day of Service. Our team made it a day ON instead of a day off and participated in a volunteer service project in honor of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.
I’ll admit that making volunteer plans for the day of service was a bit of a challenge this year. We initially intended to volunteer for a wildlife restoration project, but the frozen ground cancelled our original plans! At the last minute, I reached out to one of our community partners, Joe Gruber, Executive Director of the University District Food Bank, to see if there was a possibility we could volunteer at the food bank. It turned out that the food bank already had a team of volunteers signed up to spend the day volunteering for MLK Day of Service, but Joe suggested that our team could hold a food drive at local grocery stores and collect items for donations.
Before we can officially conduct the food drive though, Joe mentioned that we had to reach out to the grocery stores for permission and suggested stores in the University District area that have supported these efforts in the past. Luckily, we received permission from Trader Joe’s and QFC in the University Village to set up food drives at their stores, and they were incredibly supportive of our presence there. During the day of service, we set up large bins by the entrance and handed out flyers with a list of donation items to customers as they entered the store. The list included items that the University District Food Bank needed additional assistance in collecting such as baby diapers, soymilk, pasta, bars of soap, cereal, peanut butter, and more.

No one on the team—including myself—had conducted a food drive before, and we had no idea what to expect. I personally anticipated that folks would not be very interested in speaking to us or taking a list of suggested items to donate, but to our surprise we had a lot of interest! Folks were eager to take a flyer and we had many customers come out after their shopping trips with one to two full bags of items. We also noticed many parents with younger children participating in the donation and many of them donated large boxes of baby diapers. We even had a couple of folks mention to us that they were familiar with the University District Food Bank, and we had one gentleman comment that he felt very comfortable accessing the food bank as it was set up similarly to a grocery store. After we completed collecting donations, our team met back at the food bank to sort through the donations together. Our AmeriCorps team is typically at the food bank once a week educating clients on the SNAP (food stamps) program, so it was great for us to help with and experience the operational side of the food bank.

For only four hours of work, our team was able to collect around 450 lbs. of food! It was incredibly uplifting to spend half of the day with the AmeriCorps team and to experience conducting a food drive for the first time together. I am grateful to have a team who is passionate about serving the community, even on a day off!

Tags: AmeriCorps   food drive   MLK day of service   United Way of King County   University District Food Bank   

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