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IECAAC Presents 30th Annual Martin Luther King, Jr. Breakfast

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By Cheryl Brown –

The Inland Empire Concerned African American Churches will present the 30th anniversary of the annual Martin Luther King Prayer Breakfast on Monday January 18, 2010 beginning at 7:00 A.M. at the Inghram Community Center, 2050 Mt. Vernon Ave., San Bernardino, CA 92411.

The theme for this year’s celebration is “Pressing Toward the Mark of the Higher Calling” and will honor a breakfast founder, an educator, politicians, public service, and those who have gone above and beyond the call of duty in community service. Also returning will be speaker Rev. Manual Scott, who for many of the formative years was always the guest speaker and brought a packed crowd to the breakfast. It is advised that you get there early. Tickets are $10 this year to cover the rising cost of the event.

The late Rev. Gertrude Wetzel was instrumental in raising funds for her dream, a king statue in San Bernardino. She spent her time cooking and selling to raise the money. When a group saw how dedicated she was, they came in and raised the necessary funds to complete the project. That statue, the largest of its kind, stands proudly in front of San Bernardino City Hall. The King celebration in San Bernardino began when a group including Rev. Valerie Pope Ludlam commemorated the statue with a breakfast and a program around the statue.

The former 6th Ward Council Member will receive the Gertrude Wetzel Award. Cary Jenkins, Director of Housing and Community for the Economic Development Agency, will receive the Beyond the Boundaries award. Norm Nunez, the Community Relations Officer for the San Bernardino Sheriff’s Department will receive the award for Public Service. Margaret Hill, Assistant Superintendent of County Schools is being recognized as a Trailblazer. Ms. Helen Harris, an extraordinary Missionary, is being awarded the Community Service Award for her work in the mission field both in the community and in Africa. Rounding out the awardees will be San Bernardino Mayor Patrick Morris who will receive the Patriot Award.

The annual breakfast will include a variety of activities and end with the traditional walk around the Martin Luther King, Jr. statue at City Hall located at 300 North “D” Street.

Tickets are available at T. Hughes Temple Outreach Community Center, 1777 W. Baseline, St Paul AME Church, 1355 W. 21st Street, Ecclesia Christian Fellowship, 1314 Date Street, and New Ephesians Testament Church, 17777 Merrill, Fontana.

For more information contact one of the locations or Veatrice Jews at (909) 291-0741 or email veajews@gmail.com. Tickets are first come first serve.

Ebony Magazine Matriach Remembered

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Former President Bill Clinton escorts Eunice Johnson, widow of Ebony magazine founder John Johnson, into the Rockefeller Memorial Chapel in Chicago for her late husband's funeral on Aug. 15, 2005. (AP File Photo)Eunice Johnson, 93, the widow of Ebony magazine founder John Johnson and producer and director of the Ebony Fashion Fair recently died of heart failure. In an official company statement, the Johnson Publishing Company states: “We are deeply saddened by the passing of Eunice W. Johnson, wife of the late John H. Johnson, founder of Johnson Publishing Company, Inc. As a trailblazer in fashion, Mrs. Johnson served as producer and director of Ebony Fashion Fair since 1961 and also held the office of secretary-treasurer at Johnson Publishing, home to Ebony and Jet magazines.

Mrs. Johnson has always been a woman ahead of her time. Under her direction, Mrs. Johnson made a tremendous impact on the fashion industry, showcasing the best in style on African-American models of various shapes, sizes and skin tones. It was her sheer determination and astute business sense that helped pave the way for supermodels Tyra Banks, Naomi Campbell, Iman and Beverly Johnson.

To date, Ebony Fashion Fair, the world’s largest traveling fashion show, which annually encompasses a nearly 180-city tour of the United States, Canada and the Caribbean, has raised more than $55 million for various charities.

For her commitment to community service, Mrs. Johnson has obtained several awards including honors from the United Negro College Fund, The Boys & Girls Club of Chicago, Alabama A&M, Loyola University and a host of others.

Mrs. Johnson will be sincerely missed, and her life and work will continue to be defined by her contributions to the world of fashion and design for years to come.

The publishing company is now headed by their daughter, Linda Johnson Rice.


Hope For Closing The Medicare "Doughnut Hole"

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It’s an annual 'lump of coal' for millions of seniors living on fixed income

By Chris Levister –

Retired Perris educator Everett Franklin, recently found himself pleading with his doctors for free drug samples and maxing out his credit cards when he wound up in the dreaded “doughnut hole”.

“It’s damn humiliating to have to beg for medicine,” said Franklin. He’s coping with diabetes and complications from a stroke.

The doughnut hole refers to a costly gap in the Medicare Part D prescription drug coverage plan.

The plan currently covers up to $2,700 per year in prescription drug payments, then stops.

Coverage does not begin again until the recipient’s drug costs exceed $6,100 annually, thus leaving the recipient responsible for paying all drug costs between $2,700 and $6,100.

It’s a gap President Barack Obama says “is placing a crushing burden on many Americans who live on fixed incomes and can’t afford thousands of dollars in out-of-pocket expenses.”

Franklin entered the donut hole, this year in November. At that point his health plan stopped paying 75 percent of his prescription costs. A 90-day supply of his medications costs $2,582 when he’s in the donut hole, said Franklin. He pays a $50 annual insurance premium. His monthly income is a little over $1,700.

Advocates for seniors say the gap in coverage drives many older Americans to resort to the potentially life-threatening option of splitting pills or taking only half of their medication thus reducing the drugs’ effectiveness.

“All year you save and cut back on essentials like eating out or vacationing. You do everything right. At the end of the year, you get a lump of coal in your Christmas stocking,” said Franklin.

The prescription benefit was proposed by former George W. Bush and passed by a Republican-controlled Congress. The gap, intended as a cost saver, was unpopular from the beginning –and hard to understand. AARP, the seniors lobby, says the dreaded gap is the one issue it hears about most from its members.

“Although the benefits have proven popular, you can’t hold a town hall meeting or address seniors on Medicare without hearing complaints about the doughnut hole. It’s a major pocketbook issue,” says Nancy LeaMond, executive vice president for social impact at AARP.

Because the size of the hole is indexed to increases in drug costs, every year it grows more rapidly than the income of most seniors.

The Democrats’ plan would put that into reverse, gradually shrinking and ultimately eliminating the doughnut hole.

The gap in Medicare drug coverage was needed for the government to be able to pay for the program, says Senate Majority Leader Harry M. Reid (D-Nev. ).

“Final passage of the health reform bill will forever end this indefensible injustice for America’s seniors.”

Democrats and President Obama insist that the doughnut hole would disappear gradually over 10 years. Proponents say the government can afford to eliminate the gap because drug companies would foot the expense for the phase out. Critics argue that ‘less’ than half of the $80 billion that drug makers agreed to provide during healthcare reform negotiations over the summer, would be used to fill the gap.

Rep. Dave Camp (R-Mich.), a ranking Republican on the Ways and Means Committee is skeptical.

“They’re shielding the true cost by phasing it in.”

Meanwhile at this Perris senior center holiday party, people like Sharon Engles are keeping up the pressure on lawmakers to close the not-so-sweet doughnut gap.

“It’s disgusting. I ran into the doughnut hole last month. I had to pay $602.03 for one prescription and did not get another one filled.

I couldn’t afford it. I need my asthma meds. But I don’t have the money.”

Tye Dean Carter also of Perris hit the doughnut hole in August.

“A July summary from my plan showed that my meds cost $432.87. My share of that was $39.00. When I went back to pick up the prescription in August, the cost to me was $900,” said Carter.

“How come when a person reaches the doughnut hole, the cost goes wacky? Even with the 50% discount I wouldn’t be able to afford my medications. In my eyes, it’s a big shell game with the drug companies at the steering wheel.”

There is help for people with limited income and resources. If you qualify, Medicare will pay for almost all of your prescription drug costs. For information call Social Security at 1- 800-772- 1213 (TTY 1-800-325-0778) or visit www.socialsecurity.gov on the web.

Medicare seniors with low incomes are spared from having to deal with the gap. But about one-fourth of the other beneficiaries – 3.4 million people – fall into the gap.


Community Health Clinics Provide Critical Safety Net

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By Chris Levister –

A fight has broken out in San Bernardino, Fresno, Sacramento and other cities across California over how to spend millions of federal stimulus dollars earmarked for low- income community health centers known as Federally Qualified Health Centers (FQHC). Health providers are concerned that state policy makers are employing unfair tactics and gimmicks to use enhanced federal Medicaid matching funds from the “American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 to plug budget holes rather than strengthen critical health safety net services. Dr. Temetry Lindsey, President and CEO of Inland Behavioral and Health Services (IBHS) operates three (FQHCs) in San Bernardino County.

First Lady Michelle Obama announced the release of $850 million in stimulus grants in Washington, June 29, 2009. The funds are earmarked to help community health centers such as the Inland Behavioral and Health Services (IBHS) provide care to the most needy residents. IBHS officials say a fight has broken out over how California is using those federal grants to close budget gaps.In 2009 the not-for-profit received roughly $800,000 in stimulus money to expand low income health services in light of San Bernardino County’s soaring uninsured population.

The funds were allocated as a result of a 35% increase in uninsured patients in 2008. Lindsey says the stimulus money was earmarked to pay for a portion of that increased care and expand the center’s information technology capacity.

She said in the midst of the 2009 budget meltdown, lawmakers made deep cuts to state funded health programs and used accounting gimmicks and faulty one-time solutions which ended up costing IBHS $117,000 in lost revenue over a two year period.

“Where we received a dollar in federal stimulus money to expand services, California withheld two dollars in state funding. On one hand we are required to sustain current service and staffing levels. At the same time accepting the stimulus funds we are obligated to expand services.”

In what amounts to a temporary fix, Lindsey says IBHS was forced to elevate several part-time positions to full time.

“State funds intended to hire additional nurses, outreach workers and other staff were cut. We were able to hire an additional physician. In a nutshell, we’re upside down. Even with the stimulus funds we’re forced to do more with less.”

She said the state cuts cripple efforts to address a host of health problems community health centers can fight through preventive care. Lindsey says legal challenges and other stop actions taken by FQHCs nationwide have failed to gain traction.

“There’s a real concern over how much time, energy and money you should dedicate to fighting the elephant in the room.”

Last June First Lady Michelle Obama announced the release of $850 million in stimulus grants to centers such as IBHS. The stimulus law set aside about $2.5 billion for free and low-cost health clinics.

Two earlier sets of grants awarded just under $500 million to FQHCs.

A report by the Legislative Analyst’s Office stated that the Governor’s proposed 2010 reductions to the Expanded Access to Primary Care program, Medi-Cal and other key clinic programs will further limit access to state funded primary and preventative health care, and create new barriers for the thousands of low income individuals that count on these programs.

Three Federally Qualified Health Centers (FQHCs)in San Bernardino County provide free and low cost health and dental services to the region's most vulnerable populations.California once again will look under sofa cushions and scour every sector of state government to find another $20.7 billion to balance its budget over the next 19 months. The governor has to present his spending plan for the 2010-11 fiscal year to the Legislature by January 10, and is likely to include more deep cuts to health care, education and prisons.

“We’re bracing for more cuts,” said Lindsey.

Lawmakers will have to cut just about every area of government –except for a couple. The state accepted federal stimulus funds for education and Medi-Cal, so the state can’t cut those programs.

That means cuts to other programs will be much deeper.

In late March 2009 Schwarzenegger signed a bill to change eligibility requirements for Medi-Cal, the state’s Medicaid program. Those changes allowed the state to receive more than $10 billion in federal stimulus funding.

However in May the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid ruled that action violated home healthcare workers compensation requirements. The legislature was ordered to rescind the cuts or lose $6.8 billion in stimulus funding.

“It’s been well documented that San Bernardino County is an area of immense need with fewer health resources than the rest of the state,” said Lindsey.

In spite of the evidence on the important role community clinics play medically, economically and socially in serving the area’s most vulnerable population Lindsey says, Governor Schwarzenegger’s latest budget recommendations ignore the devastating impact on the ability of FQHCs to continue to provide a health care safety net.


Tuskegee Airmen Honored at Rose Parade

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The Tuskegee Airmen were honored in the Tournament of Roses Parade. The late Howard A. Tibbs was one of the original Airmen. His wife Betty and son Phillip traveled to California to see the float honoring the Airmen and to see Ohio play. Sixteen of the original group were able to take part in the parade and ride the float that was commissioned by the West Covina Rose Float Foundation.

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