RICK SICLARI | on Diamonds, a Jubilee & the next 30 years.
By Herb Sosa
For more than 30 years, the White Party & Care Resource have been synonymous with South Florida. One man has been there to guide it all, and has big plans for the next 30.
How did Care Resource start? Rooted in the 1998 merger of Health Crisis Network (1983) and Community Research Initiative (1989), Care Resource is now South Florida’s oldest and largest HIV/AIDS service organization and a true leader in the community. Since the beginning of the AIDS epidemic in South Florida and for more than 30 years, Care Resource has been dedicated to serving those suffering with or affected by HIV/AIDS and to meeting the changing demographics of the epidemic. The former Health Crisis Network (HCN), founded in 1983 by a group of dedicated volunteers, focused on providing a response to the epidemic with crisis intervention, social support and educational programs. Community Research Initiative (CRI), founded in 1989 pioneered the implementation of community-based clinical trials through its network of physicians across Miami-Dade and Broward Counties. Care Resource has demonstrated excellence in the field of HIV/AIDS as it works to fulfill its mission and have a positive impact on Broward and Miami-Dade communities. Our work in the community has earned us the confidence of our clients and funding sources at local, state and federal levels. The agency currently has over 5,000 unduplicated medical patients and conducts more than 12,000 HIV tests annually. Fundraising activities and hundreds of invaluable volunteers help raise awareness, bring hope and build a sense of community. Care Resource has currently more than 170 staff spread over 4 offices – Fort Lauderdale, Miami-Dade, Miami-Beach and Little Havana.
What’s next for Care Resource?
Recognizing the need for quality medical care for our clients’partners and families, as well as others in the community,the Board of Directors of Care Resource made the decision to expand services beyond a diagnosis of HIV/AIDS to provide primary medical services to encompass children,youth, families and seniors with a focus on our lesbian, gay, bi-sexual and transgender (LGBT) community. Care Resource currently has four facilities in Ft. Lauderdale, Little Havana, Miami Dade and Miami Beach which have all been awarded the designation of Federally Qualified Health Centers (FQHCs). All our facilities provide comprehensive health services, and our two largest offices offer comprehensive support services to address the full health care needs of our pediatric, adolescent and adult populations. Services include well child services, gynecological care, general adult primary care, oral health, HIV primary care, research, diagnostic laboratory and X-ray, screenings, immunizations, voluntary family planning and referrals to obstetrical and other specialty care services. Support services include case management, mental health and substance abuse counseling, HIV testing, outreach, nutrition and referrals as needed. As a leader in providing HIV/AIDS disease management control for 30 years, Care Resource is uniquely positioned to assist our patients in long-term disease management. Last year we were accredited as an ambulatory health care organization and certified as a medical home. What’s next for Care Resource? We will continue to provide quality and safe medical and other support services to our target population and our service area. As grant funding is getting scarce, our goal is to continue to expand our payor’s mix to ensure that we are part of the networks of all the major health plans in South Florida. We will continue to expand our mental health services and make sure in the near future we are also accredited as a mental health provider. The integration of mental health into a primary care setting is one goal we have been working on and will continue to do so. Last, as new research shows that if high-risk HIV negative clients can start taking HIV drugs to prevent the acquisition of the HIV virus, then this is one major goal of Care Resource to be able to offer this service to our clients.
Was the White Party™ always part of Care Resource? In 1985, Health Crisis Network, a fledgling not-for-profit HIV/AIDS service organization asked a local successful gay businessman, Frank Wager for help staging a fundraiser. The goal was to generate desperately needed funds to help combat a disease that was running rampant through the gay community. With this goal in mind, Frank and his committee of ten volunteers began working on “The White Party™” concept. From the beginning, the committee wanted the party to symbolize community solidarity in a way that was non-political and non-combative. White was chosen for this reason as well as for its purity and elegance. The White Party™, the world renowned crown jewel of HIV/AIDS fundraisers, continues to generate hundreds of thousands of dollars to benefit Care Resource, the result of a merger between Health Crisis Network and Community Research Initiative of South Florida, offering residents of South Florida access to promising new drug therapies in addition to the vast array of programs and services Health Crisis Network had traditionally provided. The White Party™ was created by a wonderful group of altruistic and compassionate people drawn together – responding to a dreadful disease that had caused tragic losses and much personal grief. With the ever changing landscape of this pandemic, The White Party™ finds itself in the midst of change to fit today’s growing needs while catering to a much more diverse crowd. Last year, White Party Week grossed $592,425 with 86 cents of every dollar going back towards programs and services offered to our South Florida community. As the epidemic of HIV/AIDS has changes, so have we. For decades, the agency has been known for HIV/AIDS care, but now also provides adult primary medical care, women’s healthcare,dental and pediatric care. We are a medical home for all those in need.
Tell us about this year’s White Party™ This year, we are celebrating our 30 year anniversary. It’s our DIAMOND JUBILEE! On Saturday, November 29th from 7pm to 12am at the Perez Art Museum of Miami (PAMM), attendees for this year’s White Party™ are invited to dress to impress in their finest formal
wear and debonairly debut their elegance all while enjoying an evening overlooking Biscayne Bay, the Port of Miami and the Miami skyline. If guests arrive before 9pm, they are welcome to fully explore the museum while being entertained by an array of musical quartets, ensembles and very colorful characters; while outside, they will be treated to delectable hors d’oeuvres prepared fresh from the kitchen of Stephen Starr Events. In addition, one can take their chances to win fabulous prizes at the outdoor Casino and enjoy amazing complimentary cocktails all night long. To reinvent the wheel, Care Resource contracted DJ David Knapp and the White Party Symphony, to perform a very special one hour tribute to 30 years of music, as composed and conducted by Sam Hyken, as never heard before.
Tell us about Care Resource’s annual AIDS WALK MIAMI. AIDS Walk Miami is a 5K (3.1 mile) walk-a-thon fundraiser that benefits Care Resource. Funds raised, goes right into providing Primary Medical Care, Dental, Psychosocial, Case Management, Outreach, Prevention and Education to over 15,000 residents living in Miami-Dade and Broward Counties who are either affected or infected with HIV/AIDS. The fundraiser also benefits Food For Life Network Food Bank providing meals and groceries, as well as nutritional counseling and education, to eliminate malnutrition and starvation in children and adults living with HIV/AIDS. In addition, this annual fundraiser serves as a vital vehicle to raise awareness and funds to combat the effect HIV/AIDS continues to have on the South Florida region. This year’s walk will be held at on Sunday, April 26th at the Miami Beach Botanical Gardens located on 2000 Convention Center Drive in Miami Beach. Registration opens at 8:00am and the walk will begin promptly at 9:00 AM Rain or Shine! Participant registration fee is $25 for general and sleep walker. David Bromstad, artist, muralist, designer and television personality from HGTV will be the walk’s Grand Marshal in 2015.
Why have you dedicated such a huge part of your life, personally & professionally to Care Resource and how has HIV/AIDS affected or changed you as a person?
In the early 80s, when the disease became known, I was living in Boston, and just beginning my career out of graduate school. With MBA in hand, I saw several of my fellow grads heading onto investment banking and the like, at the time. A part of the gay community, I was already seeing the impact, and feeling the personal loss of several friends. It was a very scary and unsettling time. So I decided, that at least for a while, I would seek to apply my new skills, in some way in support of bettering the health of “our” community. I took a job at a local community hospital to gain an understanding about health care, health planning for services, etc. And so it went. I worked for several years in hospital administration and then left Boston and eventually found my way to Florida, where I have now resided for the past 24 years. Interestingly, I really have only held one position since arriving, and that is this one. In 1990, I was asked by several local HIV physicians to help start up a community initiative (CRI) to bring promising experimental drugs, via clinical trials to the area. I was the first and only staff person and the American Foundation for AIDS Research (AmFAR) at the time awarded us an initial $25,000 grant to support our start up. We excelled and grew. In ’98, with the merger, I was asked to oversee the new Care Resource. Fast forward to today, where we stand proudly as a 22 million dollar agency with about 220 staff – and 4 offices across two South Florida counties.
Most importantly though, we have served literally hundreds of thousands of clients over the years, providing hope, and compassionate care. Certainly, our work has saved more lives than we could easily count at this point. It has been the best opportunity one could ask for, merging my skills and professional interests with such a special opportunity to help my community. I have never looked back with one ounce of regret. On the contrary, it has always been with a such grateful heart.