Prism Health NT relaunching Empowerment Connection programs
Prism Health North Texas’ Community Engagement Team is getting ready to relaunch the agency’s Empowerment Connection programs with an event next Thursday, Feb. 8, at the PHNTX Empowerment Center, 219 Sunset Ave., Ste. 116-B in Dallas, from 6-8 p.m. RSVP at PrismNTx.Qualtrics.com.
This week, Prism’s director of Policy, Advocacy and Community Engagement, Januari Fox, took a few minutes to talk to Dallas Voice about the Empowerment Connection programs and the benefits they offer the community.
— Tammye Nash
Dallas Voice: Tell me a little bit about the Community Engagement Team at Prism Health North Texas. What activities and events does the team handle other than the Empowerment Connection programs? Januari Fox: The PHNTX Policy, Advocacy, and Community Engagement (PACE) team is tasked with several different programs and initiatives. I am a watchdog for health policy issues at mostly a state and federal level, including Ryan White and 340B funding, funding for the Texas HIV Medication Program and prevention services, efforts to implement routine HIV testing and syringe exchange programs and preventing HIV criminalization laws from making it out of state committee. I ensure that we have a seat at the table and the experiences of the communities we serve are heard and considered.
In addition to policy, we develop, implement and manage our free, state-funded, statewide condom and at-home HIV test kit distribution program, Nice Package, a program managed by Marquesse Banks, our PACE program manager, and Natassia Radford, our community engagement coordinator. Texas residents can visit the website and choose from five different packages that meet their needs. Items are then shipped discreetly and free of charge to the address of their choice. Dallas County residents can also add a free, at-home HIV test kit to their order.
In addition to managing Nice Package, Natassia and Marquesse also plan community engagement events that complement various recognition days that focus on HIV and prevention. Our next event is Feb. 21, where we will host a game night for National Black HIV Awareness Day.
The Empowerment Connection programs are not new programs, but programs that had to be halted due to COVID and are being relaunched, correct? What will these programs include? How do these programs help connect people in the community to Prism and its programs? The Empowerment Connection is a status neutral program, meaning it is open to anyone to attend, not just people living with HIV. It is most effective when members can consistently meet in person, and COVID made that an impossible task. While there were virtual programs over the past few years, they did not have the impact that coming together and creating community has.
Towards the end of last year, we were able to convert the space next to our Oak Cliff clinic into a new Empowerment Center, and we are looking forward to resuming programs that are driven by the needs of the community. While there will certainly be a focus on HIV education and prevention, we also want to create programs that address needs such as digital literacy, nutrition, book clubs, movie screenings and discussions and much more. The center is stocked with games and arts and crafts, and is meant to be a space that is fun and inviting.
Why is it important for Prism to help develop these connections with and in the community? What are the benefits for members of the community? Our goal, along with every other organization working in sexual health, is to get to zero new cases of HIV. One way we do this is by providing opportunities for fun, engaging, relatable education. If we can create an environment where people feel safer discussing topics that are often uncomfortable, or even just sitting back to listen, then we are one step closer to getting to zero. Our hope is that members will become engaged and invested and share this knowledge with their own circles.
The benefit to Empowerment Connection being linked to an organization like PHNTX is that if someone wants to be connected to treatment or prevention, we can make that happen in one of our five clinics.
Tell me about the event, happening on Feb. 8, to relaunch the Empowerment Connection programs. What will it include? We want members of the community to come out and “Fall in Love with Empowerment Connection!” This is an open house to showcase our new space and hear from Empowerment members and PHNTX leadership. The event is sponsored by Avita, and we will have light food and beverages. We will also be registering voters for this year’s election and showcasing the Nice Package program. There will be a short, 15-to-20-minute program.
There is plenty of free parking, and it is directly on a bus line.
After the relaunch, will the programs be always available or available by appointment or at special events like this one? How do people access the programs? Following the relaunch, programs will be held weekly beginning in March, and will be tailored to what the community wants to learn. Attendees of the open house will receive emails moving forward with the ability to opt-out. All activities are listed on our website (PHNTX.org/Services/Empowerment-Connection) as well as on our Facebook and Instagram pages.
Who can benefit from attending this event and utilizing these programs? The Empowerment Connection is a status neutral program, meaning it is open to anyone to attend, not just people living with HIV. We encourage people of all ages, genders, races, sexualities and lived experiences to attend. We have a lot to learn from each other!
What else do you want people to know about the event on Thursday, about the Empowerment Connection programs and about Prism Health North Texas in general? Prism Health North Texas is committed to promoting the health equity of communities we serve through education, prevention, research, and affirming personalized healthcare. We want to build equitable health care access for ALL Texans. Come out on Feb. 8 and meet us!