Thursday, June 28, 2012

Believe It or Not, the Year is Ending!

It's almost the New Year for organizations that operate on a July 1 to June 30 fiscal year.  So, Saturday night is kind of a fiscal New Year's Eve!

Logo for Family Service of RIOf course, any fireworks you may spot will be because we're just days away from the 4th!

Can you help Family Service of RI end the fiscal year on a positive note?   More importantly, can you help us help thousands of children and families in crisis across Rhode Island?

Did you know that:

  • 6 out of 10 of the people we serve are 18 years of age or younger?
  • More than 80% of the people we serve have low incomes?
  • Over half of the people we serve belong to minority communities?
  • One in 7 of the people we serve speaks another language at home?

Our services include a range of critical programs for abused children, children with educational issues, crime victims and many others.  Check out our directory of services for a better picture of what we do.

You can donate on-line here, or send your check by Saturday, June 30 to

Family Service of RI
Attn: Finance Office
P.O. Box 6688
Providence, RI 02940-6688

Questions?  Give me a call at 401-519-2274.

Thank you! And--Happy New Year!!

--Stephen L. Hug

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Shout Out to News Media

Today is National HIV Testing Day, an annual observance that has taken place since 1995 to encourage people to know their HIV status so they can get medical care and take steps to prevent spreading the virus.

Of course, every day is the national day of something or other, a news editor once remarked to me years ago.

That's probably true.  And organizations put out press releases promoting their special day as news.

We at Family Service of RI did, since our AIDS Project RI division is a leader in HIV testing and is introducing a new couples HIV testing initiative this week.

Local news organizations--maybe even national ones--are short-staffed these days, and no doubt are overwhelmed by such press releases, even as they chase down the latest political controversy, local tragedy or what have you.

Nonetheless, some did provide coverage--it's difficult to know every one, because it's impossible to monitor all of the media outlets, even in a tiny state like Rhode Island.  And everything is not on-line, particularly television and radio.

But here are the ones we know about that worked in our press release about HIV testing into their reporting day, and they have our thanks.  If you know of others, please put in the "comments" section.

Many thanks to WPRO's Andrew Gobeil and Tara Granahan for interviewing AIDS Project RI's Tom Bertrand on their prime-time morning show. Thanks to the station for giving the story prominence on their website, too.  Thank you, also, to RI Public Radio.

A salute, too, to the Associated Press, which picked up the story and distributed it throughout the country (Maybe the world!). Thanks to the Providence Journal,, fifty miles to the north, and believe it or not, the San Francisco Chronicle and The Republic, located in Columbus, Indiana!

If you spotted coverage beyond these outlets, leave a note in the comment section.  Chances are I missed somebody.  Plus, some outlets may be doing stories about our new HIV "testing together" program in the days ahead.  We salute them in advance!!

--Stephen L. Hug

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

"Testing Together" Marks National HIV Testing Day

An innovative program—called Testing Together—is being launched this week at AIDS Project RI in conjunction with National HIV Testing Day—Wednesday, June 27th.

Now couples and individuals can get free rapid HIV tests at AIDS Project RI. The program challenges conventional practices in the United States where HIV testing is usually private and for individuals only.

Testing Together allows couples to come in for testing together and get their HIV test results minutes later, while sitting side-by-side. At most clinics, a person who asks if his or her partner can be there when learning the test result is denied because of patient confidentiality concerns. As part of Testing Together, individuals provide verbal consent that they are willing to go through the entire HIV testing process together, including receiving results at the same time and in the same room.

 “Getting an HIV test can be difficult for some people—and telling your partner the results can be even more difficult,” said AIDS Project RI executive director Thomas Bertrand. “Testing Together provides an opportunity for partners to be tested together, and get their test results together, with a trained counselor present to help talk about the results. Testing Together and receiving results together can start an ongoing healthy conversation between partners about HIV, their relationship, and building a protection plan together.”

AIDS Project RI counselors are trained on how to deliver test results, with particular emphasis on how to tell partners the most difficult news: one partner has the virus and the other doesn't. With these so-called "HIV discordant" couples, counselors have a great opportunity to reduce the spread of the virus by helping the couple learn ways to protect the uninfected partner, primarily through correct and consistent condom use and making sure people with HIV are getting appropriate medical care. Counselors also talk with couples about what to do next, including agreements they may want to make with each other about sex and health.

To mark National HIV Testing Day, AIDS Project RI will be providing rapid HIV testing for indivduals and couples on Wednesday, June 27th from 11:00 am to 5:00 pm at its 404 Wickenden St., Providence, RI, location. Testing is available on a walk-in or appointment basis on that day. To make an appointment call 401-207-8377 or email Testing is also regularly available every Tuesday from 4:00 pm to 6:00 pm on a walk-in basis, as well as any day of the week from 9:00 am to 5:00 pm on an appointment basis. When possible, couples are encouraged to make an appointment for testing, although it is not required.

Bertrand stresses, “AIDS Project RI welcomes all couples, straight and gay, who may be in new or long-term relationships to consider coming in for testing. The testing is painless, free, and anonymous, and all of the counselors are well-trained and very friendly. It’s never been easier to find out your status. Knowing your HIV status can provide you with a great peace-of mind. According to the national data, nearly one in five people who are infected with HIV don’t know their status, and many people get infected from their primary partners.”

For more information about HIV testing, please click here.  AIDS Project RI is a division of Family Service of RI.

Monday, June 25, 2012

Tune to WPRO Tuesday Morning

Tom Bertrand, executive director of our AIDS Project RI division, will be interviewed on the WPRO morning show with Andrew Gobeil and Tara Granahan on Tuesday morning at 6:20.

Tom will be talking about the new HIV couples testing program unveiled this week by AIDS Project RI.  Called "Testing Together," it challenges conventional practices in the United States where HIV testing is usually private and for individuals only.  Learn more here.

So tune to 630 on the AM dial, or 99.7 FM. Or stream it live.

Friday, June 22, 2012

Meet the Staff: Dave Cooley

Dave Cooley started at Family Service of RI back in 1990, when the agency had about 50 employees and just a few properties.

These days we have 300+ employees and a good number of properties, including additional group homes for abused children, our South Providence office, and  Mount Pleasant Academy. Dave played a key role in opening all these properties, and on a daily basis he and his team make sure the heat works, the lights are on, the roof doesn't leak, and so much more.

Maybe that’s why his day often begins at 7 a.m., and he’s on-call all weekend. His official title is “operations/project manager,” but to many he’s “Super Dave.”

But--despite this demanding schedule, he’s never too busy to help someone in need. 

 “I try to hold on to my ‘yesterdays,’” he said. “The way I do that is to help somebody every day, maybe even just holding the door. Chances are they’ll come back some day and say thank you. That’s nice.”

He no doubt reflects the spirit of his late grandfather, a community organizer who has a school named after him.

Nobody embodies the spirit of Family Service of Rhode Island more than Dave Cooley. He’s a treasure not only for the agency, but for the state as a whole.

Wherever you go you bump into people who are fans of his. He’s one of the most liked and respected people in Rhode Island.

--Stephen L. Hug

Thursday, June 21, 2012

Updated List of Cooling Centers

The heat is on, day two!

Hope you are faring well.  Unfortunately, not everybody has air conditioning, and this heat can create health challenges.

With that in mind, the Rhode Island Emergency Management Agency on noon Thursday updated its list of cooling centers across the state.

Some of the new ones are the Weaver Memorial Library in East Providence and the Pawtucket Public Library.

To see the list, which they are due to update at 4 p.m. today, click here.  If you go to this link later today they should have posted an update.

Cooling center info available by phone by dialing 2-1-1.

Please share this information with anyone who may be in need.

Thank you!

--Stephen L. Hug

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

The Heat is On!

As this is being written, it's 90 degrees in South Providence!  And, possibly by coincidence, we lost power in our building for a little while.  But everything is working okay now, including the air conditioner.

Wow! The heat is on!  At least for a couple days!

Some helpful links to help deal with the heat, particularly if  you don't have air conditioning.

Providence Mayor Angel Taveras and the Providence Emergency Management Agency have a listing of the city's cooling centers as well as hot weather tips. Click here.

The Rhode Island Emergency Management Agency has a listing of cooling centers outside of Providence here.

If you take the bus, today (Wednesday) is an air quality alert day and you can ride the bus for free. Details here.

Last we heard, this heat will be short-lived, and a more moderate weekend is on the way.

Welcome summer!

--Stephen L. Hug

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

More Than 100 Attending Sexual Health and Social Media Conference

More than 100 community and medical providers are registered to attend what is believed to be the state’s first-ever youth, sexual health and social media conference.

The event, developed by a number of organizations, takes place Thursday, June 21 from 9 am to 4 pm at the Roger Williams University Baypoint Residence and Conference Center, 144 Anthony Road, Portsmouth, Rhode Island.

 The conference is entitled: “Got UR Game On? Meeting the Sexual Health Needs of Rhode Island’s Youth.”

“We are very excited to see the high level of interest in this conference,” said Thomas Bertrand, executive director of AIDS Project Rhode Island, one of the sponsors. “It’s important because in recent years Rhode Island has seen an increase in unprotected sex and some sexually transmitted diseases among high-school students. In terms of HIV, we are seeing a rise among young gay/bisexual males in their 20s. Healthy behaviors to prevent HIV and STDs start in teenage years, and we want to see all our young people grow up healthy.”

The conference is intended for health care providers, educators, and other community leaders in Rhode Island to help them gain insights and improve their skills related to interacting with Rhode Island’s youth about sexual health issues.

“Attendance has maxed out,” said Bertrand.

Shannon Spurlock, of JSI Research and Training, Inc, which helped organize the conference, said “Young people deserve the whole truth about sexual health. Adults today need to be sources of reliable and relatable information, not just messages on pregnancy and disease prevention. We need to use a holistic approach to sexual wellness, instead of depending on scare tactics to keep young people safe and healthy.”

The featured keynote speaker is Tiffani Kisler, Ph.D., an assistant professor at the University of Rhode Island, who will be speaking about her research on the use of technology (i.e. sexting, texting, Facebook, Twitter) and its effect on psychological, sexual, and relational health.

The morning sessions will include a mix of presentations from local experts, as well as a special session where young people from Youth Pride, Inc., will share their thoughts and ideas about sexual health. The afternoon break-out sessions include hands-on training and skills building.

Conference speakers include Dr. Michele Forcier, Toby Simon, Dr. Laura Whitely, Annie Silvia, Megan Andelloux, Lisa Hoopis, and Aida Manduley.

A special emphasis of the conference is current and emerging issues in sexual health, as well as the role of technology and social media in young people’s lives.

Aida Manduly from Sojourner House, an event organizer, notes, “If we want to foster a sexually healthy and intelligent nation, state and community, we must take care to educate our youth in ways that are honest and relevant, not just factual. To this end, it's critical that we also train providers on the best ways to deliver that information and promote healthier dialogues around sexual health."

Conference sponsors include: AIDS Project RI, AIDS Care Ocean State, Bradley/Hasbro Children’s Research Center, Alpert Medical School at Brown University, JSI Research and Training, Inc., Lifespan/Brown/Tufts Center for AIDS Research, Pawtucket Prevention Coalition, Planned Parenthood of Southern New England, Rhode Island Department of Health, RI Association of Nurses in AIDS Care, Sojourner House, United Healthcare, Youth Pride RI and the YWCA of Rhode Island.

Friday, June 15, 2012

Sexting Discussion and More Saturday Morning on the Radio

Dr. Tiffani Kisler will be the guest at 7:10 a.m. on 630 WPRO & 99.7 FM on Saturday morning.

Talking about next week's conference regarding youth, sexual health and social media

One of the organizers is AIDS Project RI, a division of Family Service of RI.

She's an assistant professor at the University of Rhode Island who's done research regarding technology and its effect on youth psychological, sexual and relational health. 

She'll be interviewed live on the Saturday Morning News with Steve Klamkin.

--Stephen L. Hug

Thursday, June 14, 2012

Elder Abuse the Focus on Friday

Friday, June 15, has been designated by President Obama as World Elder Abuse Awareness Day.

As noted in his proclamation:

Victims of elder abuse are parents and grandparents, neighbors and friends. Elder abuse cuts across race, gender, culture, and circumstance, and whether physical, emotional, or financial, it takes an unacceptable toll on individuals and families across our Nation. Seniors who experience abuse or neglect face a heightened risk of health complications and premature death, while financial exploitation can rob men and women of the security they have built over a lifetime. Tragically, many older Americans suffer in silence, burdened by fear, shame, or impairments that prevent them from speaking out about abuse.

Family Service of RI, under a contract with the Rhode Island Division of Elderly Affairs, provides an after-hours emergency response program to elders in crisis.  

And Jen Etue, who heads the program, will be part of a team at NBC 10 on Friday taking calls from the public on elder abuse between 4:30 and 7:30 p.m.

Thank you to our friends at NBC 10 for this important public service!

--Stephen L. Hug

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

See the New Logo!

The annual AIDS Walk for Life is coming up Sunday, September 23 benefiting AIDS Project RI, a division of Family Service of RI.

For the first time in the walk's 27 year history--well, at least in recent memory--we have a logo!

Learn more about this year's AIDS Walk for Life by clicking here.  We're looking for teams to walk!!  Sign up now!

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Three Dancing Children

Had a planning meeting today for the upcoming Brighter Futures luncheon, which is scheduled for Tuesday, October 2, 2012 at the RI Convention Center.

This luncheon has been an annual happening since 2005, so it's a fairly new event as these things go.  But in its short life it has become a premiere must-attend for the Rhode Island business community, usually attracting 500 or so folks from banking and other sectors.  NBC 10's Patrice Wood has usually been the emcee, and she has always done a great job, setting the right tone and keeping things moving.

The concept: recognizing people or organizations improving life for Rhode Island's children. Last year we saluted one of Time's most influential people in the world, Geoffrey Canada.  His work at the Harlem  Children's Zone inspired development of Family Service of RI's project known as the Providence Children's Initiative

The actual "Brighter Futures Award" given to honorees is a print of a pastel drawing entitled "Three Dancing Children" by the internationally known artist Anne Mimi Sammis, who lives in Narragansett. The drawing is a sculpture, too, which you can view here.

Will be announcing the 2012 honoree very soon!  Thanks to all who have supported this critical fundraiser for Family Service of RI.

--Stephen L. Hug

Monday, June 11, 2012

Save the Date: September 23 AIDS Walk for Life

Already thinking about September, even though many of the kids are still in school!

The 27th annual AIDS Walk for Life is slated for Sunday, September 23, starting 9 a.m. on the State House lawn. Actually registration is 9 a.m. and the walk kicks off at 10.

This is a fundraiser for AIDS Project RI, which is a division of Family Service of RI.

Right now we're looking for people to put together walk teams to help us raise money for AIDS Project RI's important work caring for people living with HIV/AIDS, and its work preventing transmission of HIV.

Special salute to First Lady Stephanie Chafee, this year's honorary chair. Barbara Morse Silva from NBC 10's morning show will emcee.

By the way, in addition to raising money, this is an awareness-raiser about HIV/AIDS issues, including HIV prevention. Also, many of the walkers do so in honor of  lost loved ones.

Want some more info?  Please click here.

Late September is one of the best times of year in New England.  Hope you'll get out and join us in this 2.5 mile walk to fight AIDS.

Special thanks to all past walkers.

As the old song goes, we'll "see you in September."

--Stephen L. Hug

Friday, June 08, 2012

On the Radio

Was thinking about the great Donna Summer song "On the Radio" as I pondered this blog post.

As you probably know, Ms. Summer, usually associated with the disco era in the 1970s, lost her battle with cancer recently.  Lot of folks don't know she was a Bostonian.  Great loss to music.

Anyway, Family Service of RI's Dr. Susan Erstling is "on the radio" this Sunday on 94HJY, B101 and Coast 93.3.  Those stations are under the Clear Channel company banner, and broadcast a show called "Infonation" every week hosted by Bill George and Kristin Lessard.  We appreciate their interest in our work!

Runs between 7 and 7:30 a.m.  Dr. Erstling will be talking about the upcoming RI State Victim Assistance Academy, which is made possible through a partnership between Family Service of RI and Roger Williams University.  If you work with victims in any way, the Academy is a must.

Learn more here.

Have a great weekend! To paraphrase Charles Osgood, "We'll see you on the radio."

--Stephen L. Hug

Thursday, June 07, 2012

Victims Assistance Academy Starts in July

Just checked in to see if there is still room at the upcoming Rhode Island State Victim Assistance Academy in July and August.

The word is that there is still room, but don't wait much longer.

If you work with crime victims, you might want to take a few moments to learn more, which you can do by clicking here.

This is a project of Family Service of RI and Roger Williams University.


--Stephen L. Hug

Tuesday, June 05, 2012

Youth Sexual Health & Social Media Conference Slated

AIDS Project RI, a division of Family Service of RI, and other organizations have put together the state's first-ever conference to help improve the sexual health of local youth.

It's called: "Got UR Game On? Meeting the Sexual Health Needs of RI's Youth."

One of the topics is "sexting" and, generally, the effects of technology on the psychological, sexual and relational health of youth.

It's happening Thursday, June 21, 9 to 4 at the Roger Williams University Baypoint Residence & Conference Center, 144 Anthony Road in Portsmouth.

The event’s Honorary Chair is Lieutenant Governor Elizabeth Roberts.
The conference is intended for any health care providers, educators, and other community leaders in Rhode Island to help them gain insights and improve their skills related to interacting with Rhode Island’s youth about sexual health issues.

If you're interested, sign up pronto.  Seats are filling up fast!  More info here.

Monday, June 04, 2012

Did You Know About EI?

 Did you know.....
  • Family Service of RI's Early Intervention (commonly called "EI") program is designed to address the needs of children, birth to 3, experiencing development delays.
  •  Our team of experienced professionals includes educators, social workers, nurses, physical therapists, occupational therapists, speech therapists, nutritionists and interpreters. 
  • Services occur in the home or other settings where the child typically spends his/her day. EI also helps families access other services in the community. 
  • EI is personalized to meet the needs of each child and family.
 Learn more by clicking here.

Friday, June 01, 2012

Spotlight: AIDS Project RI

First row, L to R, Tom Bertrand, Jim Huseman, Ron Gonscak, Alix Stockwood. 2nd row, L to R, Lia Vaz, Samy Ndayisaba, Peggy Brown, Susan Gagnon, Kim Smith, Katie Davis, Amy Stein, Dolores Brooks, Gordon Cooper, Beverly Case

Resiliency, tenacity, and patience: these are the characteristics all AIDS Project RI staff posses as they make a difference in the lives of the people they serve.
Each year, over 350 people benefit from case management, counseling, nutrition, dental health, health insurance assistance, and other services from AIDS Project RI, a division of Family Service of RI.
In 2011 the people served came from 33 cities and towns in Rhode Island. In recent years, AIDS Project RI has helped people whose countries-of-origin are over 25 nations throughout the world! Fortunately, AIDS Project RI workers speak English, Spanish, Portuguese, Cape Verdean, French, Swahili, Kirundi, and Kinyarwanda!

Utilizing a holistic and client-centered approach, an individualized care plan is created for every person served. It is important to note that coping with HIV may not be a person’s highest priority in their life—he/she may be dealing with housing, domestic violence, mental health or other issues. The goal is to help the people served address these personal issues, as well as make sure they keep their medical appointments and take their HIV medications.

Over the past year AIDS Project RI has made great strides in expanding its education, prevention and rapid HIV testing programs.