Wednesday, March 18, 2015

What's Next for Reproductive Justice?

I'm writing this post on the heels of a very inspiring Roe v. Wade anniversary celebration at Hampshire College. We had the privilege of hearing from the incredible Loretta Ross, one of the founders of the Reproductive Justice movement. Many of us came away with a much better understanding of what Reproductive Justice means, and how the movement connects to Tapestry’s work in reproductive health.

Ms. Ross has written: “The Reproductive Justice framework analyzes how the ability of any woman to determine her own reproductive destiny is linked directly to the conditions in her community… Moving beyond a demand for privacy and respect for individual decision making to include the social supports necessary for our individual decisions to be optimally realized, this framework also includes obligations from our government for protecting women’s human rights.

Looking at a woman’s right to choose through the lens of human rights broadens our perspective. How do we protect the right not to have a child, and also the right to have a child, and the right to parent the children we have in a safe, healthy environment?

Tapestry Health’s work, with its focus eliminating health care disparities, provides the nuts and bolts of Reproductive Justice by making sexual health care and the full range of birth control methods accessible to all. Still, the Reproductive Justice movement is asking us to do more, to address the economic and social disparities that underlie inequality along all three of these dimensions.

As Ms. Ross writes,We have to address directly the inequitable distribution of power and resources within the [women’s] movement, holding our allies and ourselves responsible for constructing principled, collaborative relationships ... We also have to build the social, political and economic power of low-income women, indigenous women, women of color, and their communities so that they are full participating partners in building this new movement.

A call to action, to be sure! We’d love to get some feedback from you about how we answer this call.  

Monday, February 23, 2015

Welcoming New Controller Kimberly Foster

As you may have seen in the papers recently, Tapestry Health now has a complete Executive Team. In December we welcomed Kimberly Foster as our new Controller and key financial leader for the organization. Kim has nearly 30 years of combined operations and financial management experience, including experience shepherding organizations through major transitions. During her tenure as Director of Finance and Administration at the National Religious Partnership for the Environment, Kimberly assured an efficient and seamless executive leadership changeover. She comes to Tapestry from her position of Finance and Operations Director at the Center for Contemplative Mind in Society in Northampton. Welcome, Kim!

Kim Foster, Controller

“For 15 years I worked in the for-profit sector in Boston. It was an excellent training ground, although I prefer to use my business skills for organizations that are helping people in practical, tangible ways. I was drawn to Tapestry Health because it is well-established and has a well-defined mission, as well as a track record of helping people in ways that can make a difference in their lives. Tapestry tracks the impact of its services very closely, and measures the outcomes. It is just so clear that we are making a difference.

I also have a background in contemplative practices. It makes me feel connected to humanity to use my skills to help serve diverse and underprivileged populations, and to provide health related services to those who would not otherwise be able to afford health care. I believe that all people are connected and that Tapestry’s work is an important and concrete expression of compassion for others. I find great satisfaction in offering my practical skills in support of Tapestry’s mission.”

Friday, January 23, 2015

Tapestry applauds AG Healey's Opioid Initiative

Photo credit: Mark M. Murray / The Republican
You have probably seen that our new Attorney General, Maura Healey, has designated the state’s crippling opioid crisis as her first major initiative as she takes office this month. Her attention to this issue means a lot to us here at Tapestry Health. Our harm reduction work includes a strong focus on reducing the terrible impact of opioid use, through our two syringe exchanges and ongoing nalaxone education and outreach programs. Every day our staff witness the devastating consequences of this crisis for our region.

In 2013 the death rate from opioid use in Hampshire County was 42% higher than that of the state. Current opioid overdose death rate in the Northwestern District Attorney’s catchment area (both Hampshire and Franklin counties) is 18.9 deaths per 100,000, as compared to the state’s 2013 rate of 10.1 per 100,000. 

Even these startling numbers don’t tell the full story. In our programs we see stigmatized opioid users who can’t access other desperately needed health services that could save their lives. We see how opioid-related deaths affect not only the immediate victim, but can lead to trauma for their families, friends and the community.  

Since 2007, Tapestry Health has participated in a statewide naloxone pilot program that aims to turn this crisis around. In 2014 alone, Tapestry trained 620 community members on how to recognize an opiate overdose, how to use nasal naloxone to reverse a possibly fatal overdose and distributed 1,476 nasal naloxone kits to community members.

We are so fortunate to have public officials like Maura Healey, our own DA Dave Sullivan, and many others who are willing to put this issue front and center and to support targeted efforts like these that we know make a difference. It’s vital that our region expand community education about opioids and their risks and work even harder to equip family and friends with the skills and tools necessary to save the life of a loved one that is overdosing.We look forward to working with the Attorney General’s office and local coalitions to develop a comprehensive response to this ongoing crisis.

For more information:

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

It's Valley Gives Day!

It’s December 10, and I’m especially excited about Valley Gives Day this year. Valley Gives challenges organizations to boost their presence online and expand their base, a challenge completely in sync with our Tapestry 2.0 goals of enhancing our infrastructure to meet 21st century challenges. For over 40 years Tapestry has been supported by a community of dedicated supporters who have fought with us to ensure access to care, especially for those who are often left out or who need their voices heard. As we move the organization forward, I’m excited about the possibilities of social media to help expand our base of support and to connect a new generation of young people to this important mission.

Today, I invite you to take a look inside Tapestry and hear from our staff about their commitment to bringing front-line health care to the whole community: review our Facebook feed for photos and messages from staff that we have been sharing. You can also keep up with us on Facebook and Twitter for breaking updates about our programs throughout Western MA, or go directly to our Valley Gives page to understand why Tapestry matters in the Valley. And if you’re moved to support our work today for the first time, our board of directors will turbo-charge your gift by adding $215. I hope you’ll join us today in helping to meet the most urgent community health needs with dignity and respect.   

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Welcoming Our New Chief Program Officer

I am very pleased to announce Suzanne Smith as Tapestry Health’s new Chief Program Officer. Suzanne holds expertise in both reproductive health and HIV/AIDS and has played a leading role in community health organizations locally and around the world, including most recently at the Holyoke Health Center. Suzanne is an expert in Tapestry Health’s programs—she was previously with Tapestry for 12 years, working in our clinics and eventually becoming Director of Health Services. We are thrilled to have her back!

Filling the role of Chief Program Officer is a crucial step that will help position Tapestry to thrive in the long term. As a member of the senior executive team, Suzanne will be responsible for overseeing all programs. By directly supervising senior program managers and clinical site managers, she will help build communication, cohesion and efficiency across all our services. Her expert leadership of programs will allow my efforts to be even more focused on the financial management and fundraising that is needed to keep the agency strong.

Suzanne Smith

“I first connected with Tapestry when my family moved to this area from England. I was ready to go back to work after having my baby, and I learned about something called The Family Planning Council of Western Massachusetts. I was instantly interested, because their mission was exactly my field of work. One of my earliest jobs had been with a reproductive health clinic in San Francisco. Later when living in London, I oversaw HIV/AIDS services and also led an HIV/AIDS research project that was published in the British Medical Journal. So when I returned to the States, I was eager to apply to this organization doing cutting-edge work in my fields. Right around that time they changed their name to Tapestry Health.

This is my second time around at Tapestry, and it’s an exciting time to be back. There is a lot of opportunity to improve the quality of our services and to think creatively about the organization’s future. I’m looking forward to reconnecting with some of our wonderful community partners, and to learning more about community needs. Tapestry really is an organization that listens. We are always talking to people in the community to find out about emerging health needs. Then we try to figure out how we can best address them – whether that means shifting how we deliver a service, or launching a new program.

Most of all, I’m happy to be here because our staff. It really all comes down to them. I have so much respect for their dedication to this work. They do an amazing job of delivering high quality services in many different settings and of making clients their priority. Their work is not always easy; I consider it my job to invest in them and to support them. We would not be able to provide such caring, quality services without their commitment.”

Thursday, November 13, 2014

Is Growing a Nonprofit an Either-Or Proposition?

I recently rewatched Dan Pallotta’s fascinating TEDTalk about how our society’s values around charitable giving may actually inhibit the capacity of nonprofits to achieve great things, like eradicating homelessness or curing breast cancer. He singles out the requirement to “keep overhead low” as a major problem that prevents service organizations from scaling their work in a way that could truly transform society.

Even though my daily work at the helm of a service organization keeps me keenly aware of the importance of organizational infrastructure, I found myself thinking hard about Palotta’s message. Is he pitting the financing of overhead against the support of programs that directly serve people with profound needs? Thinking as a donor, I always want to make sure that my dollars help meet those needs. I want them funding the hard working, on-the-ground staffers.
But I also know that this is not an either-or situation. As part of the leadership team at Tapestry, I am keenly aware that our programs, and the clients they serve, will benefit from enormously as we create more robust and effective overhead systems to support them. How we implement our technology, handle our finances, tune our marketing, reach out to the community, and plan for the future are crucial “overhead” activities that can dramatically impact the reach and effectiveness of our programs. We are determined to do them right.
And I think this is an important point from Dan Pallotta’s talk: infrastructure that is well-sustained and well-implemented can take service delivery to another level that has a dramatically positive impact on the community. I know I’ll be thinking about these ideas as I make my yearly gifts to organizations around the Valley.
What do you think of Dan Pallotta’s talk? What is your vision of dramatically positive changes that Tapestry 2.0 could make in our community?

Monday, October 27, 2014

What About Obamacare?

“Now that we have Obamacare, do we still need places like Tapestry Health?” This is a common question I hear nowadays.

From its beginning Tapestry has fought for desperately needed access to care—first for women profoundly in need of family planning services, and then for the many marginalized and low-income communities we serve today. And over the years we have seen progress. 2006 marked a big victory for greater access when Massachusetts led the way toward universal coverage. More recently President Obama built the national Affordable Care Act based on the Massachusetts model, bringing health insurance within reach for millions.

So hasn’t the access gap been closed? Who is left for Tapestry to serve? If people have insurance, can’t they just go to their regular doctor? Why do they need us?

Questions like this were raised at this month’s National Family Planning and Reproductive Health Association’s regional meeting in Indiana, which I attended with Tapestry managers. We encouraged caregivers from other programs in other states, which are just getting used to the ACA, to look to Massachusetts to understand how their work will continue to be critically important. Because the reality is that, despite eight years of greater access, community-based healthcare is still a crucial element in our state’s safety net.

Consider who Tapestry serves. Of our 6,800 annual reproductive health patients, 95% report incomes at or near the poverty level. For these clients the challenges of daily life are staggering. The time, financial and logistical costs of a traditional doctor’s appointment are prohibitive. Social barriers rooted in language, culture and the need for trauma-informed care can also be impediments. Moreover, while many have been insured for years under Mass Health, Western MA residents struggle even to find doctors in the face of a provider shortage that the Springfield Republican deems a “medical emergency.” 

Tapestry Health is vital in filling these gaps. With same or next-day appointments, the ability to accept walk-ins, sliding-scale services, and offices throughout the area, Tapestry provides trauma-informed, culturally-sensitive care locally and immediately.  

So, do we still need places like Tapestry? Yes. Even with Obamacare, Tapestry’s work remains essential to the health of our region. A better question is, “How can Tapestry 2.0 leverage new access to coverage to serve our community in a more comprehensive way?”  It is this question that we will strive to answer in the months ahead.