Archives July 2020

New River Bridge in Summer

How Our Environment Impacts Our Health

Matt Cox, PhD
Greenlink Analytics

Guest Blog By: Dr. Matt Cox

Two facts to start with:

  1. At the end of July, the CDC forecasted that the rate of COVID deaths is going to accelerate over the next month (at least).
  2. 2020 marks the 50th anniversary of the Clean Air Act.

We’re in the middle of a global pandemic, with a respiratory virus wreaking havoc on the American population and its economy. The human toll continues to grow in many communities, cities, and states; deaths and hospitalizations are up, to say nothing of the impacts of social isolation, quarantines, and the recession.

How is that connected to the passage of one of America’s most important environmental laws? Simply put, if the Clean Air Act had never been passed, these COVID outcomes would almost certainly be much worse.

In 2011, the EPA projected that the Clean Air Act would help the country dodge 200,000 heart attacks and 230,000 premature deaths this year, although I’m pretty sure they didn’t factor “global pandemic” into their model.

Economists, engineers, and policy analysts have estimated the human damage wrought by air pollution, coming in with a price tag over $750 billion a year, or about 5% of US GDP.

These costs are almost entirely the result of the impact on public health – lost workdays, heart attacks, strokes, and premature deaths. How many COVID deaths would not have occurred if we had better air quality? Unfortunately, our air quality has recently been getting worse, impacting about half of the US population.

One focus of my organization is trying to improve outcomes across the country, community by community, city by city, state by state, by working on energy and environmental policy. Energy consumption is a major cause of air pollution across this country, and the impacts are not randomly distributed. Where you live and what you live in are major drivers of energy costs, and systemic racism in the American context has led to frontline communities bearing the brunt of these costs.

This is not new in American life – the environmental justice movement started in a rural county of North Carolina in the early 80s. These concerns are increasingly studied through energy burdens – the percent of household income spent on energy bills.

Structural and systemic causes drive low-income and communities of color to face higher barriers to accessing opportunities to alleviate high utility burdens [1] [2] [3], including low wages, the wealth gap, and other financial barriers [4], historical governmental policies such as redlining [5], housing quality [6], and even higher costs for energy-efficient equipment from neighborhood retailers [7]. Utility bills are also the most commonly-cited reason that people turn to short-term loan products, contributing to chronic poverty in the United States [8]. And ultimately, this circles back to health again – in addition to the toll on mental health such levels of stress can have, a fifth of American households report skipping a meal or not filling a prescription in order to keep the lights on.

So that’s a lot of doom and gloom. What do we do about it? Clean energy has a lot to offer this conversation and demonstrates how so much of this is tied together. From 2016 through 2019, we were asked to assess the public health impact of one of the most impactful energy efficiency programs of the past decade – the Atlanta Better Buildings Challenge. We utilized our AI-enabled modeling of the US energy system to assess the impacts, and the results were eye-opening.

This voluntary program in Atlanta, Georgia, had public health benefits as far away as Maine and Minnesota, and in 2017, the biggest beneficiary of the whole effort wasn’t even Atlanta – it was Birmingham, Alabama! The effort had also added jobs to the city and grown the economy.

We’ve also done recent studies of full-on clean energy transitions in states with significant Appalachian footprints – North Carolina (cool video summary) and Virginia. In North Carolina, a big push would save folks $100 a year, create over 100,000 jobs, reduce every major pollutant, and in the process reduce missed work days by 255 YEARS while saving 1200 lives. In Virginia, we showed that a transition to a fully-decarbonized power sector would save Virginians over $3.5 billion in health costs, while also saving households thousands of dollars on energy bills and being an overall cost-effective strategy. This message was ultimately compelling enough that it became state law in early 2020, when Governor Northam signed the Virginia Clean Economy Act.

There’s plenty to be optimistic about because we have the tools and the knowledge to make things better. There’s also plenty to be aware of, because there’s so much work to do to capture those opportunities to make a better world. Making the world more just in terms of health outcomes, clean energy, and many other areas can be a massive win-win…if we muster the political and economic will to bring it into being.

To learn more about Greenlink Analytics, please click on their logo to visit their website, or on any of their social media links


[1] Ross, L., A. Drehobl, and B. Stickles. 2018. The High Cost of Energy in Rural America: Household Energy Burdens and Opportunities for Energy Efficiency. Washington, DC: ACEEE.

[2] Jessel, S., S. Sawyer, and D. Hernández. 2019. “Energy, Poverty, and Health in Climate Change: A Comprehensive Review of an Emerging Literature.” Frontiers Public Health 7: 356.

[3] Berry, C., C. Hronis, and M. Woodward. 2018. “Who’s Energy Insecure? You Might be Surprised.” In Proceedings of the ACEEE 2018 Summary Study on Energy Efficiency in Buildings, 13: 1–14.

[4] Jargowsky, P. 2015. Architecture of Segregation: Civil Unrest, the Concentration of Poverty, and Public Policy. New York and Rutgers-Camden: Century Foundation, and Center for Urban Research and Education.

[5] Rothstein, R. 2017. The Color of Law: A Forgotten History of How Our Government Segregated America. Liveright Publishing.

[6] Bednar, D., T. Reames, and G. Keoleian. 2017. “The Intersection of Energy Justice: Modeling the Spatial, Racial/Ethnic and Socioeconomic Patterns of Urban Residential Heating Consumption and Efficiency in Detroit, Michigan.” Energy and Buildings 143: 25–34.

[7] Reames, T., M. Reiner, M. Stacey. 2018. “An incandescent truth: Disparities in energy-efficient lighting availability and prices in an urban U.S. county.” Applied Energy Vol 218.

[8] Levy, R. and J. Sledge. 2012. A Complex Portrait: An Examination of Small-Dollar Credit Consumers. Chicago. Center for Financial Services Innovation.

Disclaimer: Blog posts on CEG’s Community Perspectives blog do not necessarily reflect the views of the Community Education Group, its grantors, its corporate sponsors, or its organizational partners, but rather they provide a neutral platform whereby each author serves to promote open, honest discussion about issues specific to their personal expertise, lived experience, and perspective. Please note that some of the content on Community Perspectives may be graphic due to the nature of the issues being addressed by the author.

People Worth Knowing – Dr. Stephen Lee

Dr. Stephen Lee
Executive Director
National Alliance of State and Territorial AIDS Directors

This week’s #PeopleWorthKnowing interview features Dr. Stephen Lee, Executive Director of the National Alliance of State and Territorial AIDS Directors (NASTAD).

Stephen oversees all NASTAD programs – Health Care Access, Prevention, Hepatitis, Drug User Health, Health Equity, Policy & Legislative Affairs, and Health Systems Integration – as well as NASTAD’s overall operations. Stephen has deep expertise in program and organizational management, and his experience as a physician brings a practical perspective with regard to policy and program implementation.

Prior to joining NASTAD, Stephen was a global HIV expert for the Elizabeth Glaser Pediatric AIDS Foundation, where for 13 years he managed the development and implementation of programs that provided prevention, care, and treatment services to individuals affected by HIV.

He has a bachelor’s degree in biology from Baylor University, a degree in medicine from Emory University School of Medicine, an MBA from Heriot Watt University, and a post graduate diploma in health systems management from the University of London, School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine.

You can learn more about NASTAD by visiting clicking on their logo to visit their website and/or following them on social media.

Photo of the state of West Virginia outline with counties shaded red where confirmed cases of COVID-19 have been identified. Counties without diagnoses are colored in grey.

So, I’ve Been Thinking…Defending Science

I’ve been thinking about science versus politics, especially since clashes between the White House and Dr. Anthony Fauci, Director of the National Institute for Allergy and Infectious Diseases, are in the news so much these days.

It’s important that we defend science. After all, whether we are trying to solve COVID-19, HIV, Substance Use Disorder, or even racial and class inequality, it’s science that will undergird successful strategies. But we also have to defend science because science is how we explore, understand, and unpack what we believe to be true. It’s right there in the Declaration of Independence. “We hold these truths to be self-evident.” The United States was born as a hypothesis: Everybody deserves equal rights, to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness—and here’s how we give it to them.

How do you test a hypothesis? Perform an experiment. George Washington called the new American government a “great experiment.” And this country is an experiment in many ways. The whole history of the United States has been our ongoing attempt, as a people, to “form a more perfect Union.” To figure it out. To get it right.

The experiment has revealed some important truths. Like you can’t have equality and liberty and democracy if you take away land from Native people, enslave Black people, deny a voice to women and poor people. And when you finally stop doing those things? You can’t just pretend they never happened and magically have a system that will be fair and equitable for everybody. Not after generations of restricting, for instance, where Black people could live, go to school, and work, making it nearly impossible for many to emerge from poverty, purchase homes, or pass along wealth.

You can see people out there right now, absorbing that data. Look at the diversity in age, race, and class among people who are in support of Black Lives Matter. More people than ever before now understand that systems in this country are biased, and need reform. Not just the police and the criminal justice system, but most of our systems and institutions. That’s why we’re in the midst of social unrest, leading to social realignment. Because people are paying attention. They are looking at the data. They are seeing Black people getting profiled, stopped, arrested, beaten, shot, imprisoned, and executed at disproportionate rates compared with other people. They are recognizing the bias within systems and institutions, spoken or unspoken, and they’re saying, “Okay, it’s not working. Let’s try things a different way.”

Some people feel threatened by calls for change. They believe trying things a different way means admitting the experiment was a failure. What they don’t understand is: America is not the product of an experiment. America is the experiment. And that experiment is still playing itself out. It is still going on, every day. That’s how science works. If the data proves your hypothesis wrong, you admit

that you still haven’t found the best way to guarantee people equal rights—and then you keep experimenting until you figure it out. Until you get it right.

Calling for change is not rejecting America. Rejecting science is rejecting America. Because America is science. That’s why it’s so bizarre and inappropriate when people criticize Dr. Fauci for changing his positions over time. That’s what a good scientist does! Hypothesis: Here’s how we protect people from COVID-19. Then you look at the data and adjust the hypothesis as the experiment reveals the truth.

Here’re some more data: You can’t stop a pandemic like COVID-19 if you’re only worrying about yourself—if only half the people in the country are practicing social distancing and wearing a mask. You have to think about family members, neighbors, strangers. You might think everything’s fine because you’re asymptomatic, but science tells us that wearing a mask and social distancing is how you work on behalf of the greater good, your country, the world. Science tells us to take care of each other.

Politics does the opposite. Modern politics is all about dividing people up into Us and Them, and no need to care about Them. In politics, no truths are self-evident and the only important data is whatever confirms what we want to believe. But simply insisting “Everything’s fine” about COVID works no better than simply insisting everything’s fine about race, justice, and equality. The data says otherwise.

So what I’ve been thinking about is how America is the greatest scientific experiment in history. Being loyal to that experiment means asking: Did things go the way we expected? If not, what did we learn and how can we apply that information to making things better?

America is science. We can’t let politics get in the way of that. That’s why I support Dr. Anthony Fauci. All Americans should.

Harpers Ferry Train Tunnel

When an Epidemic Meets a Pandemic: Effects of COVID-19 on the Opioid Epidemic

Amanda G. S. Morgan
HIV Free WV Coordinator
Community Education Group

By: Amanda G. S. Morgan

The opioid epidemic has become a large part of the lives of most Appalachians. If we haven’t been affected directly by it, then we know someone who has been.

But now, with COVID-19, the opioid epidemic is poised to become an even bigger issue.

Supply chains have broken down, largely due to quarantines and border closings (United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime [UNODC], 2020, p. 1-6). While most would think that addicts would just be forced into withdrawal from such an event, it has only changed how opioid addicts get their “fix”. Heroin shortages have been noted across the world, so other drugs may be used as replacements or additives. Fentanyl is commonly added to heroin to increase its potency, but with the shortages of heroin, fentanyl is a likely replacement (Kaur, 2020; UNODC, 2020, p.4). This, alone, could lead to overdoses.

Many people currently receiving treatment for substance use disorders have experienced significant changes to many of their support networks. While many patients who are compliant with their medication-assisted treatment therapies have been granted the ability to get increased days supplies of their prescription medications (Roy, 2020a; Roy 2020b), regularly scheduled face-to-face follow up appointments have largely been transitioned to telemedicine or online appointments. Support groups that were previously only accessible by meeting in-person have been forced to switch to online meetings (Kaur, 2020; National Institute on Drug Abuse [NIDA], 2020). Zoloft, an anti-depressant that is sometimes used as an adjunct therapy for substance use disorder treatment, has become a part of the FDA’s drug shortages list since the start of the coronavirus pandemic (Berger, 2020).

These changes could lead to many people who are currently receiving treatment for various substance use disorders to turn to illicit substances again, especially if their access to their normal treatments is limited. The effects of this could range significantly, including recurring relapses, overdoses (including death), disease transmission, and more.

Many affected by opioid misuse are already in less-than-stable situations: homelessness, job loss, and stigma affect many people who suffer from substance use disorders.

Since many assistance programs are closed for services during the pandemic, drug users who participated in needle exchange programs may not have access to sterile needles. This may likely lead to an increase in bloodborne diseases, such as HIV and Hepatitis C (Kaur 2020).

Even without the increased risk for relapse, people who have used high dose opioids are at higher risk from COVID-19 simply from the negative effects that long-term high-dose opioid use can have on the lungs and heart. Opioid use also has the inherent risk of respiratory depression, as well, so a respiratory disease, such as the respiratory effects of COVID-19, could cause low to no oxygenation of the brain. The effects could range from brain damage to death (NIDA, 2020).

Many cities across the United States have reported overdose rates that may be increasing as the coronavirus lockdowns continue. Many harm reduction services, such as needle exchange and naloxone distribution programs, have had to shut down due to the coronavirus pandemic (Kaur, 2020).

Not enough data is available yet to conclude if the COVID-19 outbreak and resulting shutdowns have or will cause an increase in opioid overdoses. But we do know that many people may not have access to their support networks. They may not have access to many of the programs that are available to help mitigate risks, such as bloodborne pathogens from needle sharing or group therapy and support sessions. They may not have access to the substances they normally abuse and have turned to other illicit substances that may be more potent or otherwise less safe (Kaur, 2020).

During these times, if you know someone who suffers from substance use disorder, it is crucial to check on them. Social contact certainly will help them feel less isolated, even if it is just a phone call or a video chat. Checking in on them could also help, especially if they live alone. If someone who lives alone overdoses, they won’t be able to administer life-saving naloxone to themselves if they overdose (NIDA, 2020; Roy, 2020b).

While the coronavirus pandemic is certainly quite troubling in and of itself, the fallout from it could certainly have far-reaching effects. Some of our already vulnerable populations, including those suffering from opioid use disorder, could see even more effects than many people realize. Because someone prone to opioid abuse does not have access to their support systems, normal treatments, or drug of choice, they may become desperate and resort to other means to get their fix.

If you or a loved one need help in locating resources to help with opioid addiction, please contact the SAMHSA National Helpline at 1-800-662-HELP (4357).


Berger, M. (2020, June 4). Shortages of Antidepressant Zoloft Reported in the Midst of COVID-19. New York, NY: Healthline: Health News.

Kaur, H. (2020, May 7). The opioid epidemic was already a national crisis. Covid-19 could be making things worse. Atlanta, GA: CNN: Health.

National Institute on Drug Abuse. (2020, June 29). COVID-19 Resources. Bethesda, MD: National Institute on Drug Abuse: Drug Topics: Comorbidity.

Roy, L. (2020, April 21). Treating Substance Use Disorders in the Era of COVID-19. New York, NY: Psychology Today: Substance Use, Stigma, and Society.

Roy, L. (2020, May 28). Collision Of Crises: How Covid-19 Will Propel Drug Overdose From Bad To Worse. Jersey City, NJ: Forbes: Healthcare.

United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime. (2020, May 7). COVID-19 and the Drug Supply Chain: From Production and Trafficking to Use. Vienna, Austria: United Nations: Office on Drugs and Crime. Retrieved July 6, 2020 from:

Disclaimer: Blog posts on CEG’s Community Perspectives blog do not necessarily reflect the views of the Community Education Group, its grantors, its corporate sponsors, or its organizational partners, but rather they provide a neutral platform whereby each author serves to promote open, honest discussion about issues specific to their personal expertise, lived experience, and perspective. Please note that some of the content on Community Perspectives may be graphic due to the nature of the issues being addressed by the author.

Color Matters: Law Enforcement Interactions

Color Matters: Law Enforcement Interactions

The first Color Matters webinar – Law Enforcement Interactions – will premiere on July 22, 2020, at 6:00 PM Eastern.

The first conversation will be moderated by Nikole Parker (Director of Special Projects, Equality Florida).

She will be joined by Captain James Young (Deputy Chief, Orlando Police Department), Aryah Lester (Deputy Director, Transgender Strategy Center), Ty Williams (Project Coordinator, Community Education Group), and Chanel Haley (Gender Policy Manager, Georgia Equality, Inc.).

Those interested may register for the first webinar may do so by visiting the event registration page.

About the Guests

Project Director
TransAction Florida
Equality Florida

Nikole Parker is the TransAction Florida Project Coordinator, assisting with Equality Florida’s statewide Transgender Inclusion Initiative. She also currently works for the onePULSE Foundation as the Stakeholder & Community Relations Manager.

Nikole has sat on various non-profit boards within the community, including the LGBT+ Center Board of Directors, the Orlando United Assistance Center Advisory Board, TransAction Advisory Council, Spektrum Health Board of Directors and Peer Support Space Board of Directors.

In addition to her work with the onePULSE Foundation, Nikole co-leads the work of the Orlando Trans Collective, a collaborative group of transgender and gender non-conforming leaders of color who focus on community building and advocacy efforts for the Central Florida transgender community.

In 2018, Nikole was honored with the Humanitarian of the Year award by the Miss Glamorous Pageant. Nikole was also was recognized as one of Watermark’s Most Remarkable People of 2018 for her work with the onePULSE Foundation and her ongoing advocacy and empowerment of the transgender community.

In 2019, Nikole was recognized by Congressman Darren Soto for LGBT+ Pride Month and her biography was read into the Congressional Record. She hopes to encourage open dialogue on transgender issues and educate individuals from the community on healthy and safe ways to undergo a transition, finding self-care practices and providing resources so black market hormones and unsafe lifestyles can be avoided.

Deputy Chief James Young
Orlando Police Department

James “Jim” Young has been working in law enforcement for 30 years. He Grew up in northern Ohio, and upon completing High School, he entered the U.S. Air Force at age 17. He worked in the Security Police field and served tours within the U.S., Central America and the Middle East. He was honorably discharged in 1990. He joined the City of Pinellas Park Police Department in 1990 where he served in patrol, criminal investigations, undercover drug unit, gang unit, SWAT and as special assignment in Chief’s staff. Jim Young earned Officer of the Year in 1996 while completing his Bachelor’s Degree in criminology at St. Leo University, graduating Magna Cum Laude. He left (PPPD) at the end of 1996 to continue a full-time education in law. He was also named St. Leo’s Citizen of the Year in 1995 for his work with non-profits and within minority and underserved neighborhoods, always trying to help others.

He returned to law enforcement in 1997 by joining the Orlando Police Department. In his first several years he worked in various sections of patrol, FTO, ASL, special operations and crime prevention. He was promoted to the rank of Sergeant in 2010, and has served as a patrol supervisor, Mounted Patrol Supervisor and Media Relations Supervisor. He also served on the FDLE Training/Standards Commission for recruit curriculum and state testing. In 2014, he was promoted to the rank of Lieutenant. He served as a patrol watch commander, Special Patrol Section Commander, Traffic Enforcement Section Commander and Staff Director for the Chief of Police. He also served as the awards committee chair. In 2018, he was promoted to Captain. He served as the East Patrol Division Commander, and the Community Relations Division Commander. He also served as the agency’s alternate Labor Advisor and the co-chair for the Strategic Planning Committee.

Jim has received many department awards and recognitions over the years, including serval commendations and a lifesaving award.
He served in every position in various ranks on the Crisis/Hostage Negotiation Team, from Negotiator, Team Leader, Deputy Team Commander and Team Commander over an 18+ years on CNT.

Young also served as the departments lead LGBT Liaison from 2014-2017, helping to launch the Safe Place Program. He received a Lifetime Achievement Award from the Harvey Milk Foundation for his many years work to help ensure equality for everyone.

Jim Young is an instructor in several fields of expertise. He has instructed here at OPD and other local agencies, in addition to Nationally and Internationally. He continues to work closely with the US Department of Justice Community Resource Section on national law enforcement training programs in Diversity and Inclusion. In addition, he assists the International Dignitary Visitor programs through the US State Department.

He also served as his neighborhood association vice president for more than 15 years. Jim often volunteers with many community organizations and has served on many bards. Jim is married to his husband Chaz Butler, and they have 2 dogs. The continue to live within the City Limits, and Jim has done so since working for OPD.

Aryah Lester
Deputy Director
Transgender Strategy Center

Aryah Lester, nationally awarded author, as well as a speaker and educator, is a black woman of transgender experience from New York living in Washington DC. Ms. Lester was the last-standing 2-term Chair for the State of Florida Health Department’s Transgender Work Group, former Chair-Elect of the Miami-Dade HIV/AIDS Partnership, and is an Advisory Board member of Unity Coalition (UC|CU).

Ms. Lester is a board member of Equality Florida’s TransAction Florida committee, and helped to create the TransArt series with the Betsy Hotel, the LGBT Visitors Center, and UC|CU. She also sat as a member on the National Alliance of State and Territorial AIDS Directors (NASTAD) Transgender Networking Group. Ms. Lester is also Board Chair of STARR, the nation’s first transgender organization initially founded by Sylvia Rivera and Marsha P. Johnson, and Advisory Board Member for Gilead Sciences, The Well Project, and ViiV Healthcare.

Aryah Lester founded the organization Trans-Miami during her time as a expert consult member of the Miami Enhanced Comprehensive HIV Prevention Plan for the National HIV/AIDS Strategy and 12-Cities Project, as well as continued the work of her organization, the National Alliance of Transgender Advocates and Leaders (NATAL). She contracts with universities as a guest lecturer, and is a consultant with government agencies such as the Department of Justice and Homeland Security. Ms. Lester has been recognized with many awards, featured in numerous national articles, and recently was inducted into the national Trans100 list.

She currently works as Deputy Director of the Transgender Strategy Center.

Photo of Ty Williams, Project Coordinator for the Community Education Group
Ty Williams
Project Coordinator
Community Education Group

Ty Williams has been with CEG since March 2020, and serves as our Project Coordinator for our People Worth Knowing video series, and will be spearheading CEG’s forthcoming Trans Health series.

Ty recently serve as the Host and Moderator for CEG’s first ever YouTube Live event, Learning Our Roots: A Journey Through Transmasculinity, on Tuesday, June 30th, 2020 at 6:00 PM Eastern.

In addition to his work at CEG, Ty also serves as the Director of Operations at FLUX and on the Leadership Council at Black Transmen, Inc., and is also a brother of the Alpha Omega Kappa Incorporated fraternity, a fraternity for Transmasculine and Transmen.

Ty’s first blog post – Trans People Are Black People, Too – debuted, in June 2020, over at CEG’s Community Perspectives blog, where he will be regularly featured as one of our bloggers.

Ty is a Trans rights activist, motivational speaker, advocacy educator, organizer, chef, and violist.

Chanel Haley
Gender Policy Manager
Georgia Equality, Inc.

Chanel Haley started volunteering with various non-profit organizations trying to advance the rights for the LGBT community in 2005.

In 2008 Chanel took a crash course in political campaign training. That training was immediately used in helping to elect the nation’s first African-American OUT lesbian elected to a general assembly, Simone Bell. Chanel became the weekend volunteer coordinator for that campaign, and later office manager and volunteer coordinator for future campaigns. Later, during 2010-2014 the Senior Legislative Aide to Georgia State Representative Simone Bell.

Chanel became the first African-American Transgender person hired by the Georgia House of Representatives assigned to four Republicans and three Democrats. In 2014, Chanel Haley was appointed to the City of Atlanta Human Relations Commission by Atlanta City Council President Ceasar Mitchell. Later to be elected Chairperson in 2016-2018. Making her the first Trans-person to chair any City of Atlanta constituted board. The Human Relations Commission is the governing board for Atlanta’s nondiscrimination ordinance. Her position with the commission gave Chanel the authority with facilitating Trans* Humility Training at all the homeless shelters within Atlanta city limits. And is co-author of the S.L.E.E.P. training manual for the City of Atlanta. Chanel is currently on the City Of Atlanta’s HOPWA Advisory Committee and is a certified Out & Equal Workplace Advocate Trainer. As well as the secretary of Georgia’s State Advisory Board to the United States Commission on Civil Rights. 2017-2018 Fulton County Democrat Post Seat Holder At-Large. She is a 2018 Delegate to the State Democrat Convention[i]. In 2017, Chanel Haley became the first Trans-person to be listed in Real Times Media “Who’s Who in Black Atlanta” 17th edition. Chanel is a 2018 graduate of the City of Atlanta Citizens Police Academy conducted by the Atlanta Police Department.

As the Gender Policy Manager for Equality Foundation of Georgia, Chanel leads efforts that ensure nondiscrimination legislation and policies in the broad areas of employment, housing, public accommodations, law enforcement, safe schools, access to health care, education and voter registration access is inclusive of transgender and gender variant individuals and communities. She helps to build relationships with businesses and corporate environments that may have little or no LGBT background and experiences throughout the state of Georgia. And works with Elected Official’s and policymakers locally and statewide. At request, Chanel Haley does speaking engagements all over the state and nation. With appearances at 11 universities on 16 campuses, including Yale University. Chanel facilitates “Trans* 101 “Humility” Trainings by request custom for any type of organization. In 2018 Chanel designed a 1 year Leadership Academy cohort of Transmen and Transwomen. Where they learned: to effectively communicate about the transgender community, acquire confidence in public speaking, coalition building, civic engagement, policy fundamentals, gain a proficient understanding of government and how to communicate with elected officials. At the end of the 1 year class, the 14 participants are now able to apply their newly acquired skills to any career field. A new cohort started in 2019.

To register for this event, please click on the registration button and be sure to join us on Wednesday, July 22nd, 2020 @ 6:00 PM for Color Matters: Law Enforcement Interactions

Where Do We Go: Race, Class, COVID, and More Webinar

Event flyer for the webinar, Where Do We Go - Race, Class, COVID, and More with images of Host & Moderator, A. Toni Young, and panelists, Linda Villarosa, Steven W. Thrasher, PhD, Alphonso David, Dr. Carl W. Dieffenbach, & Dr. David Campt.
Flyer Design: Meelah Marketing, LLC

Join Community Education Group’s A. Toni Young, as she hosts distinguished panelists in a discussion about race, class, COVID-19, and more in CEG’s second webinar of the summer, Where Do We Go.

Join us on Thursday, July 23rd, 2020, @ 3:00 PM Eastern for a phenomenal conversation including some of the greatest minds in racial equity in public health.

Meet the Panelists

Linda Villarosa is a contributing writer to the New York Times Magazine, covering race, health and inequality and a former executive editor at Essence Magazine. Her 2018 Times Magazine cover story on infant and maternal mortality in black mothers and babies was nominated for a National Magazine Award.

Last year she contributed to the ground breaking 1619 Project. Her essay examined physiological myths, based on race, that have endured since slavery. Most recently, her April cover story examined race, health disparities and covid-19 through the lens of the Zulu Social Aid and Pleasure Club of New Orleans. Linda teaches journalism at the City College of New York and is writing the book Under the Skin: Race, Inequality and the Health of a Nation, which will be published by Doubleday in 2021.

Steven W. Thrasher, PhD, holds the inaugural Daniel H. Renberg Chair at Northwestern University, the first journalism professorship in the world endowed to focus on LGBTQ people. He is also a professor of journalism in Northwestern’s Medill School of Journalism His writing has been widely published in the New York Times, Guardian, Village Voice, BuzzFeed, Esquire, Slate, Souls, the Journal of American History and in ten book anthologies. Named Journalist of the Year by the National Gay and Lesbian Journalists’ Association in 2012 and one of the most influential LGBTQ people of the year by Out magazine in 2019 , Dr. Thrasher holds a BFA in filmmaking and a PhD in American Studies from New York University. His research on race, H.I.V./AIDS and the criminalization of sickness has been awarded grants from the Alfred P. Sloan, Gannett and Ford Foundations. He is currently writing his book, The Viral Underclass: How Racism, Ableism and Capitalism Plague Humans on the Margins, for the Celadon Books imprint of Macmillan Publishing.

Alphonso David
Human Rights Campaign

Alphonso David is President of the Human Rights Campaign. Alphonso is an accomplished and nationally recognized LGBTQ civil rights lawyer and advocate. He’s the first civil rights lawyer, the first Black man and first person of color to serve as president of HRC in the organization’s 40-year history.

He has been at the forefront of the movement for LGBTQ equality for more than a decade at the national and state level, serving and as Counsel to New York Governor Andrew Cuomo, as New York Deputy Secretary and Counsel for Civil Rights, and as a staff attorney at the Lambda Legal.

LGBTQ Organizations Unite to Combat Racial ViolenceSign-On Letter

Dr. David Campt

With more than 25 years of professional experience, Dr. David Campt (@thedialogueguy) is considered a national expert in the areas of inclusion and equity, cultural competence, and intergroup dialogue.

His insights about the keys to more inclusive and effective institutions and communities have been sought by small executive boards of fewer than a dozen to large-scale summits involving thousands of people. His clients have varied widely, and have included the US military, The White House, large corporations, international organizations, foundations, governments, universities, national associations, and non-profit groups.

David is the author of a number of books including The Little Book of Dialogue for Difficult Subject (2007) and Read the Room for Real: How A Simple Technology Creates Better Meetings. (2015). In early 2016, he created a project called the Ally Conversation Toolkit (ACT), which has engaged thousands of people in person and on line. Under this initiative, David has written three books – White Ally Toolkit Workbook, a supplement for the workbook called the Discussion Group Leaders Guide, and the Compassionate Warrior Boot Camp for White Allies. David’s work on dismantling racism has been featured by a number of prominent media outlets, such as Think Progress and The Daily Show with Trevor Noah.

White Ally Toolket –

A Man for the Times: David Campt, top race relations expert, sees progress – Rockingham Now

Dr. Carl W. Dieffenbach
Division of AIDS
National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Disease
National Institutes of Health

Dr. Carl Dieffenbach is the Director of DAIDS at the NIAID. DAIDS supports a global research portfolio to advance biological knowledge of HIV/AIDS, its related co-infections, and co-morbidities. With the goal of ending AIDS, the Division fosters research to: 1) reduce HIV incidence through the development of effective vaccine and biomedical prevention strategies; 2) improve therapy and cure HIV infection; 3) treat and/or prevent the co-infections with the highest disease burden and 4) foster partnerships to implement effective interventions at scale.

Since February 2020, I have worked tirelessly to bring effective prevention and treatment strategies in the clinical evaluation for COVID-19. These include direct acting antivirals, preventive vaccines and monoclonal antibodies directed against the SARS-CoV-2 to prevent and treat COVID.

The search for an HIV vaccine, the journey continuesJournal of the International AIDS Society

Event flyer for the webinar, Where Do We Go - Race, Class, COVID, and More with images of Host & Moderator, A. Toni Young, and panelists, Linda Villarosa, Steven W. Thrasher, PhD, Alphonso David, Dr. Carl W. Dieffenbach, & Dr. David Campt.

CEG is a national organization that offers local programs and policy solutions.

We serving diverse populations, prioritizing indigenous populations and populations in need

CEG’s work includes Direct Service programs, Policy work, and Capacity Building

Photo of Dr. Georges C Benjamin

People Worth Knowing – Dr. Georges C. Benjamin

Georges C. Benjamin, MD
Executive Director
American Public Health Association

This week’s #PeopleWorthKnowing interview features Dr. Georges C. Benjamin, Executive Director of the American Public Health Association (APHA).

Dr. Benjamin is known as one of the nation’s most influential physician leaders because he speaks passionately and eloquently about the health issues having the most impact on our nation today. From his firsthand experience as a physician, he knows what happens when preventive care is not available and when the healthy choice is not the easy choice. As executive director of the APHA since 2002, he is leading the Association’s push to make America the healthiest nation in one generation.

He came to APHA from his position as secretary of the Maryland Department of Health and Mental Hygiene. Dr. Benjamin became secretary of health in Maryland in April 1999, following four years as its deputy secretary for public health services. As secretary, Dr. Benjamin oversaw the expansion and improvement of the state’s Medicaid program.

Dr. Benjamin, of Gaithersburg, Maryland, is a graduate of the Illinois Institute of Technology and the University of Illinois College of Medicine. He is board-certified in internal medicine and a fellow of the American College of Physicians, a fellow of the National Academy of Public Administration, a fellow emeritus of the American College of Emergency Physicians and an honorary fellow of the Royal Society of Public Health.

An established administrator, author and orator, Dr. Benjamin started his medical career in 1981 in Tacoma, WA, where he managed a 72,000-patient visit ambulatory care service as chief of the Acute Illness Clinic at the Madigan Army Medical Center and was an attending physician within the Department of Emergency Medicine. A few years later, he moved to Washington, D.C., where he served as chief of emergency medicine at the Walter Reed Army Medical Center. After leaving the Army, he chaired the Department of Community Health and Ambulatory Care at the District of Columbia General Hospital. He was promoted to acting commissioner for public health for the District of Columbia and later directed one of the busiest ambulance services in the nation as interim director of the Emergency Ambulance Bureau of the District of Columbia Fire Department.

At APHA, Dr. Benjamin also serves as publisher of the nonprofit’s monthly publication, The Nation’s Health, the association’s official newspaper, and the American Journal of Public Health, the profession’s premier scientific publication. He is the author of more than 100 scientific articles and book chapters. His recent book The Quest for Health Reform: A Satirical History is an exposé of the nearly 100-year quest to ensure quality affordable health coverage for all through the use of political cartoons.

Dr. Benjamin is a member of the National Academy of Medicine (Formally the Institute of Medicine) of the National Academies of Science, Engineering and Medicine and also serves on the boards for many organizations including Research!America and the Reagan-Udall Foundation. In 2008, 2014 and 2016 he was named one of the top 25 minority executives in health care by Modern Healthcare Magazine, in addition to being voted among the 100 most influential people in health care from 2007-2017.

In April 2016, President Obama appointed Dr. Benjamin to the National Infrastructure Advisory Council, a council that advises the president on how best to assure the security of the nation’s critical infrastructure.

You can visit APHA’s website by clicking on the logo, below, and links to their various social media pages will be listed below.

Logo for American Public Health Association

Of Quarantines and Cashflows

Marcus J. Hopkins
Policy Director
Community Education Group

By: Marcus J. Hopkins

In March of this year (2020, in case this is being read in some post-apocalyptic hellscape where Internet access has finally been restored), I attended a conference in Raleigh, NC, along with CEG’s Founder & Executive Director, A. Toni Young. The day before we got on the plane, we both conferred over the phone:

 “So…have you heard anything about this conference being cancelled,” asked Toni.

“Nope, which actually surprises me, given that this is a conference about preventing the spread of infectious disease among People Who Inject Drugs (PWIDs),” I relied.

“Well, you’re still going, right?”

“Unless you tell me that we shouldn’t go, I plan on being there,” I hedged.

“I’ll see you, tomorrow.”

By the day the conference was scheduled to end, the organizers had fundamentally changed the final day’s activity to discuss COVID-19, and the fact that many of us were headed back to states where the public health infrastructures were not prepared to deal with a pandemic outbreak – Kentucky, North Carolina, Tennessee, Virginia, and West Virginia. Outside of the handful of urban areas, once you get outside the suburbs, access to healthcare in Appalachia becomes not only scarce, but virtually non-existent.

But our discussions on that final day weren’t about the spread of COVID-19, itself, but how potential shutdowns were going to impact the lives of those whom our organizations were committed to serving.

When looking at rural and suburban areas where opioid (and occasionally meth) addiction is high, there are certain factors that tend to coalesce to create an environment ripe for the growth of addiction: lower incomes, higher rates of unemployment, areas where industries have left, lower levels of educational attainment, less access to economic resources, and areas where industries that require hard labor are the drivers of the economy (Office of Disease Prevention & Health Promotion, 2020).

Those factors essentially are Appalachia.

An economy built upon hard labor? Coal mining, logging, and agriculture.

Areas where industries have left? Coal mining’s not quite dead, yet, but it’s been dying for decades, and the fossil fuel industry’s hold on this part of the country is lessening, every day.

Lower levels of educational attainment? For the percentage of residents reporting less than high school completion, Kentucky (15.5%), Tennessee (14.2%), and West Virginia (14.4%) all have percentages of their population higher than the national average (13.1%) (Appalachia Regional Advisory Committee, 2016).

Less access to economic resources? Most of Appalachia is typified by bucolic scenery, the majority of which is geographically isolating.

Lower incomes? While the national poverty rate is 15.6%, the combined Appalachian regions of Alabama, Kentucky, Tennessee, Virinia, and West Virginia is 19.7% (Federation of Appalachian Housing Enterprises, n.d.).

When I brought my last partner, a born and bred Los Angeleno, to West Virginia to visit family over the holidays, in 2010, we drove up from Tennessee, through Virginia and West Virginia, to get to Morgantown. Along the way, he got an education in what “poverty” means, in Appalachia, versus Southern California.

For him, his perception of poverty existed in an urban desert: rundown apartment complexes, neighborhoods whose shopfronts were mostly boarded up or empty, and food being bought from “liquor stores,” because grocers had long since departed the area.

While driving through Preston County, WV, he turned to me and asked in horror, “Is that a shack?!”

“No…that’s someone’s home, and they likely have neither electricity, nor running water.”

Many of the clients served by 501(c)(3) organizations, Community-Based Organizations, and other non-profits in Appalachia live in these kinds of conditions. Whenever I go to conferences on HIV, Viral Hepatitis, and other infectious diseases, I keep trying to explain to people that the numbers coming out of West Virginia (e.g. – the highest rates of new Hepatitis B and Hepatitis C infectious in the U.S. per 100,000) are only a fraction of the story.

Because of the geographically isolated nature of Appalachia, there are tens of thousands of residents who are not reached for testing, alone, much less treatment. This is where small, community-based organizations – Rural Health Service Providers (RHSPs) – come into play. They serve as the links that get isolated populations to services, or, in most cases, take those services to the isolated.

So, when shutdown protocols were being announced, we immediately predicted two outcomes:

  1. Feelings of social isolation would increase, driving many people to overindulge in drugs, thus increasing the number and rate of overdose deaths;
  2. Delivering services to these people would become both more vital, and more difficult to achieve, as the delivery model largely depends upon isolated people coming to more central areas to access services (meaning that house calls would become necessary.

Though both predictions came to fruition – overdose deaths did increase, particularly in Appalachia – the second issue has proven to be the most difficult to overcome.

The issue that exists, for many of these small groups, is that their entire operations often rely upon both volunteers, and individual donations, meaning that there are no consistent sources of revenue. A lot of these organizations are put together by local people doing their best to bring resources to local residents, and they all have day jobs. In the past month, I received an E-mail from one of these organizers asking for a personal donation; another organizer told us that her group received a grant of $350 to purchase supplies.

$350 is awesome, but it falls extremely short of what is needed to combat the problem.

Moreover, while the people who organize these groups have hearts full to bursting and are dedicated to their missions, what they often lack are the kinds of resources they need to apply for and receive private and federal grant monies that could support their organizations.

Whenever federal funds are allocated for use in “rural health,” they are almost instantly gobbled up by Federally Qualified Health Centers (FQHCs), Rural Health Clinics (RHCs), and Look-a-Like (LALs) who have staff members whose jobs are dedicated to finding, applying for, and receiving grants.

So, how do these organizations compete?

Right now, they largely don’t, and that is a serious problem that CEG, along with TruEvolution, Inc. (Riverside, CA), is trying to address.

In the coming month, we will be unveiling a new national project that is aiming to create a way for these organizations to access federal, state, and local funds that would allow them to build, repair, expand, modernize, and mobilize their operations to meet clients and patients where they live, rather than expecting them to travel to urban areas to access services.

That’s all I can say, right now, but look forward to this unveiling in the coming weeks, because I think this one has a lot of great potential.


Appalachia Region Advisory Committee. (2016, October). Identifying and Addressing Regional Education Needs, Figure 1. Educational attainment by state, 2014. A-1. Washington, DC: United States Department of Education: Appalachia Regional Advisory Committee. Retrieved from:

Federation of Appalachian Housing Enterprises. (n.d.) Appalachian Poverty. Berea, KY: Federation of Appalachian Housing Enterprises: Appalachian Poverty. Retrieved from:

Office of Disease Prevention and Health Promotion. (2020). Substance Abuse Across the Life Stages. Washington, DC: United States Department of Health and Human Services: Office of Disease Prevention and Health Promotion: Leading Health Indicators: 2020 LHI Topics: Substance Abuse: Life Stages & Determinants. Retrieved from:

Disclaimer: Blog posts on CEG’s Community Perspectives blog do not necessarily reflect the views of the Community Education Group, its grantors, its corporate sponsors, or its organizational partners, but rather they provide a neutral platform whereby each author serves to promote open, honest discussion about issues specific to their personal expertise, lived experience, and perspective. Please note that some of the content on Community Perspectives may be graphic due to the nature of the issues being addressed by the author.

Learning Our Roots – Watch the Panel

By: Ty Williams

#CEGLive hosted its first livestream on Tuesday, June 30th, 2020, and while it was not without its technical difficulties, we eventually ended up with a fantastic panel discussion.

While we had initially planned to livestream the event on YouTube Live, we ran into an issue and had to switch over to Facebook Live, where we picked up the conversation from the beginning, which is where this recording begins.

Thank you, to everyone who was able to attend and participate in the panel, and we apologize for any inconvenience our tech issues caused. Please be sure to check out our YouTube Channel (here), like the video, and subscribe to our channel.

CEG is a national organization that offers local programs and policy solutions.

We serving diverse populations, prioritizing indigenous populations and populations in need

CEG’s work includes Direct Service programs, Policy work, and Capacity Building