Wednesday, November 25, 2015

Attention Case Managers: A Conference with You in Mind

By: Vincent Lynch, MSW, Ph.D., Founder and Chair, The Annual National Conference on Social Work and HIV/AIDS

On World AIDS Day 2015, as we consider this year’s theme of “Getting to Zero,” please take the opportunity to read here about a four-day annual national conference on psychosocial issues which may very well interest you, your colleagues and possibly your clients. The Annual National Conference on Social Work and HIV/AIDS was founded by me at Boston College in 1988 in response to the growing need expressed by case managers, social workers, client advocates and mental health professionals to develop a major annual conference where these psychosocial AIDS care providers could network and learn from each other regarding new developments in the psychological and social aspects of HIV/AIDS care. Now in its 28th year, the conference moves around the country to a different city each year and consistently draws 400-500 attendees. We typically offer over 100 presentations each year. Here are examples of just a few of the topics we address: new approaches to case management service delivery, updates on ADAP policy/program issues, other HIV policy issues including the changes in the Ryan White Program, effective strategies for treatment adherence, advocacy skill building, self-care for providers, techniques for interdisciplinary collaboration, improving services to communities of color and current medical updates.

Panelists in Photo: (left to right): Russell Bennett, MSW, Ph.D.- conference co-chair; Vincent Lynch, MSW, Ph.D.- conference founder and present chair;  Gina Brown, MSW- Planning Council Coordinator, New Orleans Regional AIDS Planning Council; Randall Russell, MSW- Board Chair, Professional Association of Social Workers in HIV/AIDS.
Panelists in Photo: (left to right): Russell Bennett, MSW, Ph.D.- conference co-chair; Vincent Lynch, MSW, Ph.D.- conference founder and present chair;  Gina Brown, MSW- Planning Council Coordinator, New Orleans Regional AIDS Planning Council; Randall Russell, MSW- Board Chair, Professional Association of Social Workers in HIV/AIDS.

A high proportion of attendees each year have the MSW degree, but by no means is that degree necessary to participate in the conference (either as a general attendee, presenter or exhibitor). Our next conference will be at the Hyatt Regency Minneapolis during May 26-29, 2016.  At present we are receiving abstracts of proposed conference presentation proposals from colleagues. I’d like to invite you to consider sending me a conference presentation abstract if you have a topic that you might wish to discuss. The official deadline for submission of presentation abstracts is December 4, 2015; however, we are willing to extend the deadline until December 21 for readers of this blogpost.

We have four presentation categories at the conference: a 90-minute poster session, 75-minute workshops; 50-minute “conversations on best practices” and 20-minute brief reports.  If you wish to submit an abstract please email it directly to me as a Word document at Just send me your title, the name(s) of the presenter(s), a 250 word summary of your topic, email address(es) for presenter(s) and your preference for what presentation category you’d like it to be considered. We’ll get it in review right away and should have a decision for you in 10-14 days as to where it might fit in the conference schedule.

We also have a special “Early-Bird” discount conference registration fee available until January 25, 2016 whereby you can save $100 on the standard conference registration fee if you register by that date. Please note: we can also waive the conference registration fee in full for persons living with HIV/AIDS and also for a limited number of colleagues who wish to serve as conference volunteers. For more details please contact me directly as my email address (noted above).

To obtain a copy of our latest flier which will provide all the information you need about our conference please go to:

We have a loyal following… many of our attendees have attended our conference multiple times. Please consider participating with your brother and sister providers of HIV/AIDS psychosocial services. I can guarantee you will meet some fascinating colleagues from around the country (and around the world!). In addition to the valuable learning you’ll be exposed to at the conference sessions, you’ll also have the chance to participate in receptions and other informal “Meet-And-Greet” opportunities. The only way we can “Get to Zero” is for all of in HIV/AIDS to unite our efforts and work together more collaboratively. I do hope to see you in Minneapolis in May where you can meet and collaborate with many others doing the same important work as you. Thank you for all the important service you provide in our common goal of fighting the epidemic. All the best.  

Thursday, November 12, 2015

Under the Gun: Mandated Mail-Order Pharmacies

By: Brandon M. Macsata, CEO, ADAP Advocacy Association

At the heart of any successful disease management is informed consumer choice; without it, access to timely and appropriate health care services, and adherence to treatment options will likely suffer. HIV/AIDS disease management is certainly no exception. People living with HIV/AIDS must play a central role in determining their care and treatment options, which may -- or may not -- include the use of mail order pharmacy programs.

Mail-order pharmacy programs can serve an important resource for some people living with HIV/AIDS, including prescriptions delivered under the AIDS Drug Assistance Programs (ADAPs). Mandating such programs, as often is the case with some ADAPs and insurance carriers, can present numerous obstacles. Many patients and their advocates view these services as counterproductive, too.

Prescription drug bottles inside a mailed package, along with an Rx
Photo Source: MichRx Pharmacist Consulting Services, Inc

It is an issue that has routinely raised cautionary flags. So was argued in an earlier blog by Michelle J. Sherman, RPh, FASCP, AAHIVP, MichRx Pharmacist Consulting Services, Inc., "Many of these mail order pharmacies are owned and operated by the insurance company themselves. There are so many conflicts of interest in this behavior you would think the FTC [Federal Trade Commission] would put a stop to it, but instead they seem to turn a blind eye and is encouraged. In recent weeks, we have seen major insurance company mergers. Aetna spent $37 billion to buy its rival Humana; Centene spent $6.3 billion to buy Health Net and Anthem is close to a $47 billion deal to buy Cigna."

Mandating the care and treatment of any chronic disease posses numerous challenges. Among some of the most common challenges faced by patients include the potential breach of privacy, lack of oversight on negative drug interactions, lost/late shipments, and loss of face-to-face consultations with pharmacists. These challenges, as well as others, have led to several states banning, or attempting to ban the use of mandated mail order pharmacies—including Maryland, New York and Pennsylvania.

Now, Florida can be added to the mix of states aggressively tackling mandated mail-order pharmacy programs. Last week, Senator Rene Garcia (R, 38th District - Miami) and Representative Debbie Mayfield (R, 80th District - Vero Beach) filed legislation in the Florida Senate (S.B. 780) and Florida House (H.B. 583), respectively. The news was welcomed by advocates in the community.

In a statement issued by the AIDS Healthcare Foundation (AHF), David Poole, AHF’s Director of Legislative Affairs, argued, "...[T]he problem is these arrangements are often more focused on minimizing financial risk for the insurers and not focused on providing the patient or beneficiary with options that work best for the individual patient’s situation."

Bill Arnold, President & CEO of the Community Access National Network (CANN), echoed those sentiments when he summarized mandated mail-order pharmacies violate the right of every patient to choose how they wish to receive medications. He said, "The process over rules free choice for the patient, potentially exposes private health information to other present at the mail deliver site, and subverts the relationship of a patient with their local pharmacist. This relationship is  virtually important to many seniors and to many patients with life threatening and chronic diseases. The requirement fails the basic test of treating patients as American consumers.”

Most organizations, including the ADAP Advocacy Association, are not necessary opposed to mail-order pharmacy programs, but mandating that patients use these programs can pose significant barriers to care and treatment. It is paramount that patients, advocates, social workers and other stakeholders continue to monitor damaging policies, such as mandated mail-order pharmacies.

To that end, there is a free webinar being held on Wednesday, November 18th. The webinar - hosted by the ADAP Advocacy Association, and held in partnership with the Great Lakes ADA Center and the Community Access National Network - will focus on the challenges associated with mandated mail-order pharmacies. It will review three case studies, each presenting different obstacles presented by mandated mail order pharmacy programs and how best to overcome them. To register, go to