ACR Health

ACR Health in Syracuse put on a special workshop for educators recently to explore ways schools can become more supportive of transgender students. The session also offered a firsthand look at the challenges these kids face.

Schools are often ground zero for transgender kids, says Terri Cook, co-author of the book “Allies and Angels” and parent of a transgender child.

“School can be a safe space for a student, or it can be a living hell,” said Cook.

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The Affordable Care Act’s open enrollment period begins Saturday. One Syracuse agency is getting ready to help people who want to sign up or make a change in their health insurance policies.

In the first year of the Affordable Care Act, ACR Health in Syracuse signed up 8,000 central New Yorkers through the New York State of Health website, and about 6,000 of those people completed their health insurance enrollment. Now it’s time for the agency to get back to work during the next open enrollment period.

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ACR Health has expanded its needle exchange program in Utica.  

In the Syracuse area, the organization’s three-year-old needle exchange program has reached almost 1,000 injection drug users. ACR health prevention director Erin Bortel says one of the reason it’s so successful is that it goes to where the injection users are.

"We’re able to infiltrate the community in a little bit more practical way, than expecting people who continually experience stigma and discrimination from having to come to us. So our mobility is our huge asset in our ability to reach individuals.”

ACR Health Prevention Services in Syracuse is looking for ways to reduce HIV and hepatitis C infection rates in New York state prisons.

According to federal statistics, inmates have the highest rate of HIV in New York, compared to any other state, and many of those inmates are  co-infected with hepatitis C. To fight that, the National Black Leadership Commission on AIDS has a campaign that emphasizes public awareness, education and access to testing and treatment.  

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Gov. Andrew Cuomo recently announced a plan he hopes will end the AIDS epidemic in New York state by the year 2020, but much of what’s involved in the three-point program is already being done.

The governor's program is called “Bending the Curve," and concentrates on three things: identifying people who test HIV positive; linking those people to healthcare and connecting them to anti-HIV therapy to prevent further transmission; and stopping high-risk behavior among others to keep them HIV negative.

ACR Health in Syracuse is getting a lot of calls from people who signed up for healthcare through the Affordable Care Act marketplace, and are worried their health insurance costs are rising. But the experts who signed hundreds of people up for insurance in central New York say not to worry.

Ellen Abbott / WRVO

ACR Health in Syracuse is hoping a successful nutrition program can be expanded to serve others in the community, but right now its nutritional education program currently only has funding to serve clients with HIV/AIDS.

Brian Cowden, 50, has been living with HIV since he was 19. On medication to control the disease, Cowden says he never felt good, complaining of gastrointestinal problems, migraines, sleep issues. But after joining ACR Health’s nutritional program, that all went away.

Ellen Abbott / WRVO

A spate of heroin overdoses last week in Syracuse has created a more urgent tone for one community organization’s program meant to fight overdoses. The Opioid Overdose Prevention Program run by ACR Health in Syracuse hopes to prevent stories like this in the future.

Ellen Abbott / WRVO

Along with a spike in heroin and other opiate use in central and northern New York has come a jump in the number of  drug overdose deaths. One Syracuse health organization hopes to bring that number down by teaching people how to administer a drug that can stop the effects of an overdose.

There's only a week left in the enrollment period for people to sign up to get health care through the Affordable Care Act. But there’s been a steady flow of central New Yorkers signing up for insurance policies through the New York exchanges in advance of that deadline.

ACR Health in Syracuse has been helping people in a nine-county area sign on to plans. Community Health Director Steve Wood says things have been going well so far, with 3,500 people covered by health insurance who weren’t before.

There are less than two months left for people to sign on to a health insurance plan and avoid tax penalties for not having insurance in 2014.  

Steve Wood, community health coordinator of the ACR Health Syracuse office, said they are continuing outreach in nine counties in central New York, encouraging people to get help from specially trained navigators who can help with the process.

As the deadline for health insurance plan applications approaches, one agency that’s offering individuals help with the process is finding itself very busy. ACR Health in Syracuse has exceeded expectations as far as signing people up in the state healthcare exchanges.

According to navigator Brian Vanbenschoten, ACR has already helped more than 1,100 people sign up for health insurance plans that will go into effect Jan. 1. That’s 300 more than the agency anticipated at this time.