UPIC Celebrates Third Quarterly Speaker Series

By Jessica Lay
April 19, 2019

Alice Paul, suffragist and contributor to the ERA. Image from alicepaul.org

The evening of Wednesday, April 16th, UPIC hosted its Third Quarterly Speaker Series. During this session, a speaker from Virginia Ratify came to discuss the Equal Rights Amendment (ERA) with the team. What many people don’t know, is that the ERA has still not been ratified in 13 states, including: Utah, Arizona, Oklahoma, Missouri, Arkansas, Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama, Georgia, Florida, South Carolina, North Carolina, and Virginia. So, what exactly is the Equal Rights Amendment?

The Equal Rights Amendment dates back to 1923, when Alice Paul and other suffragists added a handful of new words to the end of the 19th amendment. This culminated in a new amendment:

“Equality of rights under the law shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any state on account of sex.”

As you see above, ERA aims to eliminate the denial of civil rights based off of one’s sex. This would include closing the gender wage gap for women in the workforce, and ensuring parental rights of fathers going through a divorce. Despite being written in 1923, the amendment wasn’t passed until 1972. It has yet to be ratified by the required 3/4 of all 50 states.

UPIC employees had the option to attend in person or watch the presentation virtually.

The Virginia chapter of Ratify ERA was our third in a series of guest speakers that UPIC features quarterly. Previously, our topics have discussed domestic violence and reproductive rights. The speaker series is one of the several enrichment opportunities that UPIC offers its employees, along with paid volunteer days and a mentorship program for new hires.

“I loved learning about VA Ratify’s work in the community to raise awareness. It motivated me to want to help spread the word and get involved with this movement. The speaker series helps me feel myself and UPIC are connected and current within our community.” -UPIC team member, Jessica Bisch

It’s always the goal of UPIC Health to align our actions with our values. Employee life enrichment is a major priority at UPIC, along with supporting causes we care about. This is why we thought VA Ratify would provide a wonderful guest speaker experience.

Author Jessica Lay is UPIC’s Program Lead for UPICares, the organization’s philanthropic initiative.  She spends half of her time assisting patients through UPIC’s contact center and recently completed a degree in Aging Services Management. Follow us on Twitter and Instagram @UPICHealth.

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UPIC Team Member Knits to Aide Communities

By Jessica Lay
April 12, 2019

Carla came to work for UPIC Health in October of 2017 after working at a nursing home for one and a half years. She’s always had a passion for community involvement, and began a scarf business that sends a portion of the proceeds to countries in need. She agreed to an interview so we could learn more about her business, Y.M. Moda.

Carla knitting at her desk as she assists patients.

Funds from every Y.M. Moda purchase go towards relief projects benefiting Venezuela, Syria and Puerto Rico. What about those countries struck a chord with you?

I connected to those countries because I empathize deeply with the struggles of the people of each nation. With seeing each country’s humanitarian crisis, I learned that you could lose everything through no fault of your own, and you’ll only be left with what you have.

I’m not there physically, but we are still brothers and sisters. I wanted to help any way I could, because I was able and I knew that there were probably other Americans that felt the same way. In the end, all we have is each other.

Scarves are your main project right now- is there any symbolism behind the infinity scarf or any of the colors/patterns you use for your scarves?

Not particularly. I just choose patterns and colors that I like and build off of feedback from customers. I started off with scarves because I knew how to knit and it was something cheap that I could produce while I was at my desk, working my current full-time job as a Patient Care Coordinator at UPIC.

Do you have any advice for someone looking to start a business that aides their community?

Put your weight, faith, and passion in people, not money. If you’re doing the right thing, everything else will follow. Also, like anything else in life, it’s important to surround yourself with people headed in the same direction.

It’s clear you are very interested in activism and grassroots efforts to aid communities, where do you see yourself and Y.M. Moda heading in the future?

I hope to see Y.M. Moda empowering people anywhere possible. I hope my work helps stir change in communities and people with my products and message.

But on a local level, I hope to be able to reconnect and shine light on those around us by featuring local artists, writers, and ethically sourced materials down the line. I still have a long way to go though haha.

Y.M. Moda means You Matter Fashion, can you tell us a little about why you chose that name?

You Matter Fashion encompasses a couple of different ideas. The big two messages are:

  • I wanted every person (the model, the buyer, the benefactors of donations, and even people just encountering the scarf in passing) that came in contact with one of my pieces to feel empowered and to know that their existence matters.
  • It was also important to me to create fashion for regular people like me. Because regular people matter too (you know, since we’re the majority). I wanted to make clothing that made a statement, made you feel great, didn’t hurt or exploit anyone, and didn’t cost a million bucks.

What other causes/communities do you find yourself advocating or volunteering for outside of Y.M. Moda?

Lately I haven’t been as involved in volunteering as much as I’d like to, but when I do, I mostly hang out at the nursing home I used to work at. It helps me keep things in perspective.

Other organizations I’m interested in getting involved with later this year are: Black Lives Matter (D.C Chapter), GreenThinkers (an environmental conservation organization), and N Street Village in Washington, D.C.

How long have you been with UPIC? Has being a patient care coordinator and advocating for patient needs inspired you in any way?

I’m going on a year and some change working as a patient care coordinator at UPIC. The experience as a whole and working with the organizations we do has inspired me in some ways and it’s definitely helped put things in perspective.

I’ve learned that when you wage stakes for a cause you care about, you have to be ready to fight. Even when you’re attacked from all sides, even when they kick you when you’re down, even when they don’t play fair. You have to keep fighting, if not for you, then for the people you advocate for.

While working at UPIC I also learned that individuals have more power than they know. Thinking you’re just one person who can’t make a change is the biggest and saddest lie you can ever believe.

Finally, I’ve learned that sometimes, you have to start with ripples to make waves. And sometimes it’s gonna take a few whacks before you get it right.

What tips do you have for balancing caring for others and caring for yourself?

[Laughs] I haven’t mastered that yet, but some things I’m trying to implement into my life are:

  • Make time to reset when you have to, or you’ll always feel overwhelmed and discouraged.
  • Get a planner. If you refuse to sit still, structure is needed. You’re not superman.
  • Don’t be afraid to deal with what you feel, its necessary for growth.
  • And most important: Make sure you’re okay. If you’re not good, you can’t help anyone else.

How long have you been knitting? Do you have any plans to expand your line to include other items?

I originally learned to knit when I was in high school and would take up knitting on and off since then. (Fun fact: I took up knitting consistently after UPIC held a clothing drive and I made scarves to donate. It set off a pretty cool chain reaction.)

Also, Yes! I do! I’d like to venture into making other women’s clothing, jewelry, and accessories. Little by little though, but stay tuned!

Information about Y.M. Moda can be found on the website and Instagram.

Author Jessica Lay is UPIC’s Program Lead for UPICares, the organization’s philanthropic initiative.  She spends half of her time assisting patients through UPIC’s contact center and recently completed a degree in Aging Services Management. Follow us on Twitter and Instagram @UPICHealth.

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UPIC Volunteers Show Holiday Giving Spirit

By Jessica Lay
Dec. 31, 2018

Thursday, December 13th was the perfect night for three UPIC volunteers to serve a warm meal to the residents of the Patricia Handy Place for Women, a short-term emergency housing facility run by N St Village. Lovingly known as Pat Handy Place, the shelter opens it’s doors to over 200 women per night. Volunteers were welcomed immediately upon walking into the shelter by staff and the women seeking shelter there alike. We served up a warm meal which was provided by local organizations, including DC Central Kitchen, to thankful shelter clients.

For UPICares, the ability to volunteer during work hours is an incredible experience.

Volunteering at the Patricia Handy Place for Women was a new experience for me, and a great one at that! Being able to take time out of my day to help serve food at the women’s shelter was amazing. I have always loved to help people, no matter what it is, and doing things like this actually makes a difference in peoples lives and I am glad to be apart of it. – Glori, UPICares Volunteer

Because of N St’s warmth and whole person approach to caring for the women that find themselves in a tight spot. they see many success stories; like Catherine, a woman who came to N St in 2016 and has been thriving ever since.

Also during the month of December, the Chantilly and Norfolk offices worked together to raise donations for a coat drive benefiting HER Shelter, which serves women and children survivors of domestic violence. The shelter received two coats, eight sweaters, and 93 items of warm clothing thanks to the combined efforts of the two UPIC offices.

UPIC is looking forward to continuing to make a positive impact on our clients, patients, and community in the coming year.

Author Jessica Lay is UPIC’s Program Lead for UPICares, the organization’s philanthropic initiative.  She spends half of her time assisting patients through UPIC’s contact center and recently completed a degree in Aging Services Management. Follow us on Twitter and Instagram @UPICHealth.

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UPICares Serves Dinner at HER Shelter

By Jessica Lay
Nov. 16, 2018

Earlier this month, five members of the UPICares team served dinner to 12 women and nine children seeking refuge at the Help and Emergency Response (HER) Shelter. HER Shelter provides basic assistance and aims to promote healing and empowerment to those affected by domestic violence. The dinner was the first out of our Norfolk, Va., office and marked the beginning of 2018’s Hunger and Homelessness Awareness Week.

Team members Nikita, Amina, Jessica B., and Ana ready to serve dinner to shelter clients.

According to the Salvation Army, six percent of homelessness cases in the U.S. are caused by domestic violence. The National Alliance to End Homelessness reported that on a single night in January 2017, 16 percent of the overall homeless population (87,329 people) had experienced domestic violence. Survivors often need to leave home very quickly, sometimes with children or pets. This means that they must go without simple necessities like a change of clothes, food, or money.

According to the National Center on Domestic and Sexual Violence (NCDSV), the cycle of abuse starts with mounting tension, then a violent incident, and ends with a calm stage when the abuser might apologize profusely or even deny they did anything wrong at all. But not all abuse is physically violent. Abusers find many ways to control their partners.

Defining Domestic Violence
Domestic violence, also known as intimate partner violence (IPV), can manifest in several ways, such as controlling behavior, physical or sexual violence, withholding or hiding money and resources, emotional or verbal abuse, stalking, and isolation. Signs of domestic abuse can include:

  • Fear of your partner or feeling threatened
  • Feeling like you walk on eggshells or anxiety over potential reactions from your partner
  • Feeling belittled or humiliated
  • Having your possessions withheld or destroyed
  • Having limited access to the phone, car, or finances

Abuse can happen to people of all ages, gender identities, and socioeconomic status. NCADV reports one in three women and one in four men have been victims of domestic violence at some point. IPV disproportionately affects those in the LGBTQ community, who might experience barriers accessing resources.

And children are often the hidden victims of domestic violence.

Chatting with clients in the food line.

Facts from the Childhood Domestic Violence Association(CDV):

  • In the U.S., five million children witness domestic violence each year.
  • Children from violent or abusive homes are much more likely to experience significant psychological problems, short and long-term.
  • Those who grow up with domestic violence are six times more likely to commit suicide and 50 percent more likely to abuse drugs and alcohol.

Organizations like the HER Shelter provide warm meals, a safe place to stay, and are often the first step to survivors on their path to healing by improving economic security and overall well-being. This makes HER Shelter a perfect partner for UPIC Health, which strives to empower women every day.

“We believe we can inspire others to reach their ultimate potential, to establish a better life for themselves and their children.”  -HER Shelter

UPICares volunteers arrived at the shelter with healthy food and drinks prepared ahead of time. We did not see every face while at the shelter. Some of the clients work nights and some are still healing and prefer to keep to themselves. Upon leaving the shelter, the UPICares team received many words of appreciation. One client even expressed that she wished we could cook for them every night.

The experience at the shelter inspired employees in Norfolk to launch a winter clothing drive. We hope to provide warm coats and clothing to the women, children, and teens at the shelter.  If you would like to donate to HER Shelter, please contact erika@hershelter.com or call 757-485-1073.

Our meal consisted of lasagna, salad, cheese ravioli and tomato sauce, and fruit with whipped cream for dessert.

No one deserves to be mistreated. If you or someone you know is experiencing intimate partner violence or domestic abuse, please contact the National Domestic Violence Hotline at 1−800−799−7233 or TTY 1−800−787−3224.

You can also visit their website at https://www.thehotline.org/

Author Jessica Lay is UPIC’s Program Lead for UPICares, the organization’s philanthropic initiative.  She spends half of her time assisting patients through UPIC’s contact center and recently completed a degree in Aging Services Management. Follow us on Twitter and Instagram @UPICHealth.

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Growing Out Of Bad Relationship Cycles

By Juli Briskman
December 4, 2018

This is the second in a series of blogs about domestic violence experienced by UPIC employees and their families. #WeAreWhoWeServe

Something remarkable happened when UPIC encouraged employees to wear purple in honor of National Domestic Violence Awareness month in October.  The day set was Oct. 30 and as employees shared their photos from the offices and from home, many came with snippets and stories attached.

We have turned those stories into a blog series called #WeAreWhoWeServe.  This is the first expanded story from one of our coworkers who did not want to reveal her name.  We will call her Natalie.

Natalie, 34, is originally from Richmond, Va., and the eldest of six children. When we asked UPIC employees to wear purple in October, she wrote that she did not grow up in an abusive household but remembers her grandmother telling her to keep her smart mouth shut or a man would “beat her butt.”

Natalie says she did not grow up “abused.” But her mother was shot in the head and died when she was 12 and her grandmother, who raised her, was verbally abusive toward her own boyfriend while Natalie was in her custody.

This is where Natalie believes she learned to be a fighter and to have strong opinions that may have led to the rough relationships she experienced during her college years.  She says it was always about controlling her.

“As I got older I was in some relationships like that as well. I always considered myself a fighter.  It was like a mutual thing,” she said. She was in two abusive relationships while attending Old Dominion University in Norfolk, Va. and shortly after. And they each ended when the boyfriend was jailed on unrelated charges.  “I eventually realized that’s not the relationship I wanted.”

In the first relationship, Natalie said her boyfriend went from being a ‘9-to-5 guy’ to some kind of street guy.”  He later told her that he changed to prove he was strong and to control her. They would verbally battle, grab each other and tussle.  “We broke a lot of things.”

This boyfriend was jailed for shooting a college basketball player.

“He came in my apartment and said ‘hey babe cut on the TV look what I did.’  He thought I was the kind of female that wanted a street guy. In his crazy mind he thought that was what I wanted,” she said.  “I always wonder if my demeanor pushed him to be that way. He later said that he needed to do that to control me.”

It’s difficult for Natalie to label her relationships as violent and she finds ways to blame herself.  “Every time it was me saying something to them and it was something that just made them snap.”

She’s not atypical.  Many victims blame themselves. And according to LoveIsRespect.org, college students are not equipped to deal with dating abuse as 57% say it’s hard to identify.  On the whole, 43% of dating college women report experiencing violent and abusive dating behaviors.

But while she feels she’s “grown out of” accepting violent relationships, it’s clear Natalie had some hurdles to break a cycle that accepts verbal and physical abuse as the norm.  She grew up in a neighborhood with “a bunch of gang bangers and drug dealers.” Her mother suffered from crack addiction that eventually led to her death.  And her grandmother came from an abusive relationship that Natalie eventually realized led to her comments about getting her butt beat. She is the only one of her siblings to attend college.

The Second Relationship

In her second college-age relationship, things got more physical:  “It was way more on him. It was way more that he had to control me and I wouldn’t allow it.  I didn’t really want to fight. I can’t really remember what we fought about.”

Twice he tried to choke her.  The first time they were in a car.  “I was driving. I said something smart to him and he choked me.”  She remembers waking up and the car was still moving.

The second time it occurred at his uncle’s house while the boyfriend was drinking.  She remembers calling for help, nobody was coming and thinking that she may actually die that night.

 “I was screaming telling them to come to get him and they were like completely ignoring me.  And I remember being on the floor and he was choking me and I remember thinking he was going to kill me.”  The second abuser was also put in jail and right around the same time, Natalie got a job and an apartment.

Natalie changed the type of men she dates and is in a relationship now.  But she finds the tools for control have just changed.

She decided if she dated guys that make money she would not have to deal with physical abuse. But:  “Guys with money try to control me as well.”  

No one deserves to be mistreated. If you or someone you know is experiencing intimate partner violence or domestic abuse, please contact the National Domestic Violence Hotline at 1−800−799−7233 or TTY 1−800−787−3224.   You can also visit:  www.thehotline.org.

Juli Briskman is Chief Marketing Officer for UPIC Health, LLC.  UPIC outsources patient contact center, revenue cycle management, and telebehavioral health services.  To learn more, visit the Who We Are page on our website. Follow us @UPICHealth.

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UPICares Leads Program at D.C. Women’s Shelter

By Jessica Lay
Oct. 25, 2018

This week will mark the beginning of UPICares’ workforce development program with N Street Village, a community of empowerment and recovery for women in Washington, D.C. Clients who participate in the eight-week educational series will learn and practice skills such as professional communication, organization, and self-care.

View of N St Village, where it sits on corner of N and 14th St

We couldn’t think of a better time to start this next level of engagement with our partner N Street as October is Domestic Violence Awareness Month.   One in three women has reported to N Street that violence and/or abuse are contributing factors to their unstable housing situation. Domestic abuse can range from name calling to physical or sexual assault. Controlling behaviors, such as withholding funds and intimidation, can keep women from leaving abusive partners.

In fact, three in five women arrive at N St with no independent source of income. This means finding gainful employment is paramount to leading a healthy and independent lifestyle.

Knocking on N St’s door is the first step to ensuring a warm meal and a safe place for the night for a woman struggling to make ends meet. However, N Street goes beyond providing basic necessities. Clients of the Village can also take advantage of wellness services, from dental care to mental health care, provided at the center.  Thus, UPIC believes that work and communications skills are a natural extension of this support to help get women on the path to independence.

At UPIC we really believe “It Takes a Village.”  And we are excited  for this deepened relationship with N Street as we all work together to empower women.  To learn more about our past work with N Street, visit the UPIC news page.

Author Jessica Lay is UPIC’s Program Lead for UPICares, the organization’s philanthropic initiative.  She spends half of her time assisting patients through UPIC’s contact center and recently completed a degree in Aging Services Management. Follow us on Twitter and Instagram @UPICHealth.

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UPIC Attends N Street Night at Nationals Park

By Jessica Lay
Sept. 28, 2018

N St Village Members accepting a Spirit Award on Nats Field

UPICares volunteers had a blast at N Street Village’s Night at Nationals Park last week. Although our local team lost 2-4 against the New York Mets, the ‘friendraiser’ was a home-run for the women’s shelter that supports nearly 2,000 women a year.

UPIC employees that made in-kind donations to N St were entered into a raffle for a pair of tickets to the game. We made sure to take into consideration their most needed items at the moment: travel sized toothpaste (supplies were recently exhausted) and deodorant.

Nat fans intently watching the game.

N Street allocated great seats for the game and each ticket included a $10 concession credit and $5 donation to the Village.

To add to the excitement, the Washington Nationals honored local charities and organizations with Spirit Awards during the pre-game ceremonies. Before the first pitch, N Street employees were invited onto the ball field to accept a Spirit Award.

N Street’s mission was featured on the big screen twice, along with the logo that features a D.C. skyline.

N Street provides basic needs such as beds and warm meals for those in need. And daytime services include dental care, shelter, and wellness services, such as yoga, and much, much more. N Street’s mission is to empower homeless and low-income women in Washington D.C. to claim their highest quality of life. The Village serves about 208,000 meals and facilitates more than 5,000 showers per year.

Each woman comes to the village with her own unique set of circumstances. The Village works to meet those needs and empowers clients to overcome challenges, heal, and restore a sense of dignity and self-worth. N Street clients’ diverse challenges include:

  • Disability, mental illness, addiction, 64%
  • Self-reported HIV, 6%
  • Lack of income, 50%
  • Older population, 51% are over 50
  •  Discrimination, 81% percent are women of color.

“Every day at least one woman comes to N Street Village for the first time, and I know that – but for a few circumstances of fortune and timing – ‘she’ could be me.” -Schroeder Stribling, CEO of N St Village

UPICares volunteers had a blast at the game!

UPICares also is partnering with N Street in a workforce development program that clients of the Village can participate in. The program will help clients develop communications skills and prepare to get back into the workforce.

N Street is gearing up for Fall with some notable events:

Author Jessica Lay is UPIC’s Program Lead for UPICares, the organization’s philanthropic initiative.  She spends half of her time assisting patients through UPIC’s contact center and recently completed a degree in Aging Services Management. Follow us on Twitter and Instagram @UPICHealth.

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UPICares and Kennedy & Co. Partner to Help Women

By Jessica Lay
Aug. 29, 2018

UPICares team in front of event space in Georgetown

UPICares and Kennedy and Co. recently co-hosted a happy hour fundraiser for BRAWS, a local organization that provides feminine care products, bras, and underwear to women, children, and students who cannot make the items a budgetary priority.

Those who attended the event in the swanky Georgetown district of Washington, D.C., contributed $560, 10 bras, three pairs of adult underwear, and 26 pairs of children’s underwear.  Nineteen boxes of tampons and 10 boxes of pads were also collected, making for a total of 1,034 menstrual hygiene products!

Menstrual inequity effects many populations including (but not limited to) incarcerated women, those that are homeless or living under the poverty line, survivors of domestic abuse, people that are transgender or non-conforming, and youth in schools.

Although the law recently changed in Virginia, women in prisons often do not have access to menstrual supplies and often cannot afford to buy those in the commissary. Those within the prison system or those that are homeless/low-income tend to resort to making their own menstrual devices from low-quality supplies. Forced non-hygienic practices can lead to infection and sometimes serious health implications.

BRAWS Founder Holly Seibold with Madeline Middlebrook and Kathleen Kennedy of Kennedy & Co. speaking to event attendees on menstrual equity.

According to United Way, 30% of our region’s residents are liquid asset poor. That means that many families in D.C. do not have the means to cover basic necessities if faced with job loss for three or more months. Often, this can mean that access to basic necessities like menstrual supplies and underwear is impossible. Some low-income people resort to selling their SNAP (Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program) benefits, forgoing meals in order to buy menstrual supplies.

Those fleeing domestic violence circumstances have the potential to lose access to supplies and resources in the process. Due to demand, shelters for survivors of domestic violence often are ill-equipped to provide necessities on a month-to-month basis. Absence of these basics can hinder the survivor’s ability to find gainful employment, continue their education, or re-enter the community with confindence.

Complications to access of menstrual products is heightened for transgender or gender non-conforming students and adults who are forced to use ill-stocked non-gender neutral bathrooms. From fearing for personal safety while opening a pad or tampon inside a male-designated bathroom, to the wage gap that trans and non-binary people experience in the workforce, basic dignities go to the wayside.

Donations table with info. on UPIC and BRAWS

For many children in public schools, the absence of menstrual supplies can lead to missing up to a week of classes every month.

Legislation surrounding menstrual equity in schools has been largely non-existent. According to the BRAWS Report on Menstrual Inequity.  However, California, Connecticut, the D.C., Virginia, Maryland, Illinois, Michigan, New York City and State, South Carolina, and Tennessee have passed legislation in order to provide menstrual products free of charge to students in school. These jurisdictions are expecting an increase in attendance directly related to their efforts.  Jurisdictions report 2.4% increase in student attendance after implementation of these programs.

“We’re not talking about rocket ships; we’re talking about sanitary pads. Yet they both have the same effect. They take you places.” -Diana Sierra, Founder BeGirl2

Donations from last weeks event will be handed out at United Way’s Project Homeless Connect event on September 20th at the DC Armory. BRAWS is expecting 400 or more homeless women and girls to attend in search of supplies. If you or your company would be interested in volunteering at this event, please contact a BRAWS volunteer coordinator at info@BRAWS.org.

BRAWS, UPICares, and Kennedy & Co. formed a great partnership to provide hope, dignity, and resources to those in need. A full report on Menstrual Inequity can be read here.

Author Jessica Lay is UPIC’s Program Lead for UPICares, the organization’s philanthropic initiative.  She spends half of her time assisting patients through UPIC’s contact center and recently completed a degree in Aging Services Management. Follow us on Twitter and Instagram @UPICHealth.

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