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ACR Health extends employment services to NNY residents

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Residents of Jefferson, Lewis and St. Lawrence counties who are HIV positive can receive education from ACR Health staff on developing skills to return to the workforce.

Expansion of those services into the north country began after the Syracuse-based agency received a $166,155, five-year state grant in the fall to help such people retain long-term employment, prompting them to lead fuller lives, according to agency officials.

“We were contained to certain counties before,” said Jennifer R. Cook, ACR Health support services program coordinator. “Recently we were able to expand to the out-stations. Previously, any employment services offered was done by care management staff.”

ACR Health provides services to people with HIV/AIDS, and other community members, within Cayuga, Herkimer, Jefferson, Lewis, Madison, Oneida, Onondaga, Oswego and St. Lawrence counties.

Employment specialist Laura E. Mokrzycki said either people with HIV/AIDS have been too sick to work in the past, their employers had issues with health appointment scheduling around work hours or they feared employers or potential colleagues would not give them equal opportunities.

People with HIV/AIDS do not have to be ACR Health clients to participate in the ACR Health Employment Initiative. By participating in a two-week workshop through contractor Visions for Change, Syracuse, they will learn self-sufficiency, motivation, interview skills, resume building, health insurance and other employment skills.

Mrs. Mokrzycki said while the employment program is now open to north country residents, she must be properly trained on all workshop programs before the entire two-week session can be offered in Jefferson, Lewis or St. Lawrence counties. Since January 2013, ACR Health has delivered case management services to about 300 people in those three counties.

Interested people who can provide their own transportation can join the Syracuse-based workshop for the initiative, which begins today. Mrs. Mokrzycki said ACR Health also offers some transportation services, but it cannot always be guaranteed.

“We haven’t had clients from the north country yet,” she said. “We’re looking forward to having this pick up in the next month or so. Not everyone is ready for employment, but we focus on people who are motivated to return to work.”

Grant money also may be used to help fund HIV/AIDS clients’ vocational schooling or recertification for a state license, among other options to maintain or enhance employment.

Meanwhile, Ms. Cook said, she also hopes the initiative teaches employers that “folks who have HIV/AIDS are just like anyone else” with a diagnosis of a chronic illness.

“We expect them to be fair and follow the rules, which may not happen when you disclose you have that,” she said. “We try to work with clients on how to talk through those things.”

For more information, call ACR Health at 475-2430.

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