by Annette Pinder
So much is happening at Evergreen Health Services that it is difficult tell the agency’s whole story. Suffice it to say, that what started out as AIDS Community Services, now includes so much more. A recent grand tour of Evergreen revealed that what the agency has accomplished is nothing short of miraculous.
Evergreen’s list of services includes alcohol and substance abuse counseling, care coordination, food pantry and nutrition, HIV and HEP C testing, housing assistance, emergency financial assistance, housing placement and rental subsidies, mental health services, social and therapeutic groups, transportation, pharmacy and primary care, social and therapeutic groups, southern tier services, a syringe exchange program, and a wellness center.
The one thing Evergreen doesn’t do is judge people for their behavior or life situation. We accept and love them,” says Associate Vice President of Healthcare System Development, Sarah Gardner. “People who walk through our doors won’t be judged on their appearance, lack of employment, drug addiction, or sexual-orientation,” says Raymond Ganoe, CEO and President of Evergreen. He adds, “We are here to welcome people, wherever they are in their lives. We are tearing down the silos and sharing best practices. We’re reaching poor folks.”
Evergreen has the 2nd largest syringe exchange program in NYS and most comprehensive in the nation, dispensing 400,000 needles annually, and saving hundreds of lives. They don’t condone drug use; they simply make sure people using them are safe, and are prepared for those who desire counseling. Surprisingly, many program participants are middle-class kids from the suburbs who can buy heroine for only $3 a bag who are afraid to tell their parents. A new mobile van will go to various neighborhoods to reach those without transportation.
There are 230 employees at Evergreen, 33 funding streams, and an annual operating budget of 35 million dollars. They have 14,000 unduplicated patients annually. A fully equipped pharmacy with three full-time pharmacists dispenses 280 prescriptions daily. At the community center nutritionists teach people how to cook healthy meals, grow gardens and pick vegetables. An art therapist helps people express themselves. “Often people are reluctant to open up and share their experiences,” says Ganoe. He adds, “They’ve had a difficult time, and art is a great outlet through which people can share their feelings.”
Evergreen’s Pride Center offers a safe, warm and caring place for gay, lesbian and transgendered individuals. Ganoe explains, “Often, young people who “come out” are rejected by their families. They become homeless and sell their bodies to support themselves.”
Of course Evergreen is still working to fight AIDS and the stigma associated with it, and supports Dining Out for Life. The agency is also a great neighbor. They are renovating old buildings, creating safe and affordable housing. Their latest project is transforming an old church that will be become offices, a community center, and an event venue.
Evergreen participates in Medicare, Medicaid and private health insurance, and undergoes a rigorous certification process in order to meet the very highest standards of a health practice. The agency has two Buffalo locations, and one in Jamestown. A non-profit, they welcome volunteers and donations, particularly during holiday time. Call 716-847-2441 or visit www.evergreenhs.org and see how you can get involved.