FOF #1286 – Howard Brown Health Center on Life Support

Nov 10, 2010 · 1985 views

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It’s been a pretty bad year for Howard Brown Health Center, one of the nation’s largest LGBT health care providers. They’ve let go some of their top personel and they are now facing a huge financial crisis.

On this special edition, Jamal Edwards, the new CEO of Howard Brown, talks about their uncertain future, his recovery plan, dealing with past scandal and plans to be more open in the future.


  1. Andrea says:

    I haven’t heard anyone ask if it’s worth saving, actually. I have heard a lot of concern about whether the issues in management have been addressed sufficiently and whether there truly will be transparency in the future.

    But we are all clear, everyone I’ve talked to about this — if Howard Brown closes, people in our community will die. HoBro, BYC and Triad are crucial and irreplaceable. We HAVE to save them.

  2. Danny Kopelson says:

    Howard Brown is definitely worth saving! I feel if it will make its 3 year strategic plan (discussed in this podcast) readily available to the public, hold open houses, and clearly demonstrate how they will guard against this kind of mismanagement happening again, many more people will be willing to support them and keep them afloat. I’m wondering if all the board and staff use their own Triad physician services. Also ir would be good to know exactly what the executive salaries are now. Even if they are well earned, salary cuts from big amounts will make a big difference especially at this time. I know the community can do it. This is worth saving!

  3. jayinchicago says:

    Does using insurance at the Sheridan clinic have the same benefit as seeing a provider at Triad?

    • Tricycle says:

      Indeed it does! The more insured patients Howard Brown sees, the more UNinsured patients Howard Brown is able to see. It doesn’t matter if you go to the Sheridan or Triad location, there just seems to be more capacity at the moment at Triad, given the number of uninsured patients being seen at Sheridan. I’ve talked about this at length with medical providers from HB.

  4. anynomous says:

    ha..from what I understand, interanlly its a nightmare. This is ruining some people’s good name, just in order to save an unstable one. I think they do great service..but so do pother agencies that have their shit together,

    • jayinchicago says:

      “but so do pother agencies that have their shit together,”

      If you have a source of health care for uninsured trans people in Chicago, it’d be criminal not to reveal it.

  5. erik sosa says:

    I really wish my friend could say his peace! Maybe after all of this is over, you can hear their half of the story.

  6. Tricycle says:

    I’ve lived in many parts of this country. I’ve been in Chicago for almost a decade. When I first came here I was blown away by the LGBT community’s visibility, its cohesion, and its ability to provide for itself. I quickly got involved.

    It didn’t take long to learn that, as in most families, there was a lot of disfunction among members of Chicago’s LGBT communities. I learned a lot those first few years, working in the public sector to try to improve people’s lives. I learned by watching how to do things and by watching how NOT to do things. They’re equally effective means of learning.

    One of the most distasteful things I learned in the beginning was the level of pettiness, vindictiveness, back-stabbing, and infighting that occurs among LGBT communities in Chicago. This manifests itself in many destructive ways, not the least of which is a lack of collaborative and cooperative efforts between organizations. It’s a human trait to want to find fault and criticize from a place of moral superiority. Lord knows I do enough of it myself. In the best of times, and with a high level of awareness, criticism can result in changes for the better in community-based organizations. But this is NOT the best of times we’re living in at the moment.

    Like many people out there, LGBT folks are hurting right now. We’re losing our jobs, we’re losing health insurance, we’re slipping into poverty, and we’re facing a renewed backlash of homophobia and violence (both personal and institutionailized) that makes us direct our anger inward and KILL OURSELVES.

    When we backstab and fight amongst ourselves, we validate and affirm other people’s homophobia and hatred for us. We become victims. There is no power in that. There is no life in that. There is no love in that.

    In times like these, if we are to survive, we have to band together as a community and work to take care of those least able to do so for themselves. In doing so, we establish our own healthy futures. Anything less kills our community. At the end of the day, that is all that matters.

    Fact: Howard Brown is one of a very few community health centers in the nation that cater to the needs of LGBT people.

    Fact: Howard Brown has always blazed trails in community/public health, HIV/AIDS education and treatment, and basic social justice for disenfranchised groups like LGBT, but also for homeless youth and poor people across the north side in general. As more and more County hospitals and nonprofit health and social services organizations in Chicago have closed their doors in the last ten years, places like Howard Brown have found themselves in the unenviable spot of having to serve more and more under- and unisured, more homeless, and more people afflicted with addiction and mental illness.

    Fact: when the national and local economies tank, funding for social safety nets like Howard Brown dwindles. Make no mistake… these are the WORST of times for nonprofits across the country. The running of these organizations takes skill, intelligence, wisdom and leadership in the best of times. Right now, it’s a thankless job requiring magic skills.

    Fact: organizations evolve over time. LGBT organizations, including Howard Brown, bear little resemblance to the organizations they were even ten years ago. If you are serious about the health and well-being of your community, get involved to make nonprofits as strong and as healthy as they can be. Serve on boards of directors, volunteer, serve on community advisory boards, learn about the issues organizations address as well as the ones they face. We are our own saviors. If we’re to be healthy and happy, we have ALWAYS had to carve those things out for ourselves. The world isn’t designed to nurture LGBT folks, in fact, just the opposite. All of the gains we’ve accomplished in the last fifty years have been because individuals who werefed up being treated like second-class citizens (or worse) banded together to demand equal rights. These gains have come about because, as LGBT folks, we’ve taken it upon ourselves to secure some modicum of stability, safety, health and happiness in this world. Howard Brown has been a vehicle for this kind of change for several decades. It is a gem in Chicago’s crown. Anyone who thinks otherwise should try living in the deep south or anywhere else in the Midwest to get a frame of reference.

    Howard Brown is OUR health center. If it fails, it will be because we were too blind to see its indispensible value in our lives. Even if you’ve never been to Howard Brown, the fact of its existence means your LGBT brothers and sisters out there are healthier. That, in turn, means our community is healthier. And THAT, brothers and sisters, means each and every one of YOU are healthier.

    Howard Brown helps people. It saved my life. We are in this together, even if we’re a disfunctional family. The failure of Howard Brown would be an indescribable tragedy for this city and for LGBT people everywhere.

    Please help save Howard Brown in any way you can.

  7. Barrett says:

    Great show, guys. I’ve had mixed feelings about whether or not to donate. But Mr. Edwards seems really sincere about wanting to make HB a better organization and have it fulfill its mission. I appreciate you all asking some tough questions and his candor as well.

  8. Darrin says:

    I’m a few episodes behind and just listened to this one. My hat goes off to Marc and Fausto for such a hard hitting interview. You both asked the hard questions and didn’t settle for fluffy answers. Move over Thomas Roberts, you have some competition!

    • Thanks Darrin. Be sure to give credit to Jamal Edwards who is doing a lot of media appearances with hopes to try to turn around Howard Brown’s public image and to try to save a very important and necessary health care organization here in Chicago.

      It’s his willingness to take our questions in the first place that made for a compelling interview.

      Obviously Howard Brown is worth saving, but some of their staff and employees’ deplorable behavior is certainly not. We hope they manage to survive this, and I’m sure we can count on the Chicago community to get them through this rough time.

  9. Jimmy_Jammin says:

    The care at Howard Brown is still world class, and world class care doesn’t come without world class problems. Lets not through the baby out with the bath water and eat our dead. Gay men tend to kill good things with gossip.

    Lets solve this thing with creativity. AIDS is the villain that needs to be killed once and for all don’t let the actions of a few changes the lives of many.

    Few were helping before Howard brown, and no one has this history they have in this fight. It has been a hard fight and many have fallen. Lets, be American and root for the underdog.

    Remember, that every time Howard Brown has steeped up the level of care, they have faced new infection and the struggles that come with that. It has been a parlous fight, and no one can claim victory. We need to accept that the doctors case mangers and executives of Howard brown or on the front lines of a battle field and some may fall down. When people fall we need to guide them back up.

  10. anonymous says:

    FYI – all Howard Brown, Brown Elephant, Triad, and Broadway Youth Center staff are required to have their primary care providers be Triad or Sheridan Rd. providers – all staff members, that is, who have the agency’s health insurance plan. We all use our health insurance at our agency to help fund all the uninsured clients.

  11. Mark says:

    I guess I have been under a rock for the last few weeks. I had no idea was was happening at HB. Thanks for keeping me informed. It would be a shame for all of Chicago if we were to loose HB.

    • Hblover says:

      I just want to know when the board is going to come out of hiding and accept responsibility. This kind of a mess is shameful. Yeah they changed management and from what I can see try threw him under the bus and made him a scapegoat. Why haven’t we heard anything from the board? When are they going to change. Hb always has scandals and they change leadership but never the board. There comes a point when you have to wonder who is really responsible. I am impressed by all this new management is doing to at least try to be open and transparent – even if not perfect, its much better than anything Ive seen in the last decade or so. I remember the days when you couldn’t even ask a question about hb without getting cut. Now at least the executives are talking as this shows. But I don’t see any board members talking or changing or doing anything except pointing fingers at everybody but themselves. This big mess couldn’t have just happened over night. How did they miss this one? Same way they missed the development director and execs selling meth out of the office, right? Last time I was there, some of the workers told me the board hasn’t real been around and that the staff is raising more money than they are. No surprise to me. I was at an event last year and the development guys told me the board gives less than then senior staff. I wanted to give some board members a piece of my mind then, but most of them weren’t even at the event. Not the gala and not the garden of even. If we are really to see a new Howard Brown, we need to see a new board – and A list organization deserves and A list board. Time to ditch the D list.

  12. Chicagocyn says:

    Right on. Time for a complete turnaround. New leadership all around.

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