AIDS Walk Converts Curmudgeon

By Deric Batt

Full disclosure: I am something of a curmudgeon. I am annoyed by nearly everything and age has brought me a certain disdain for fun. (I’m only 30!). That seems like such a weird concept, but it is true. It is in this context that I must admit to my status as a disgruntled participant in the 2017 Indiana AIDS Walk. My immediate reaction upon arrival at the event was to be a bit underwhelmed.

That changed once I ran into the most infectiously warm person I have ever had the privilege of meeting – Mr. Tony Newland, HIV Prevention/Services Training and Development Manager with the Indiana State Department of Health. One hug later and I was taken by one simple thought.

Who hugs people nowadays?

As it turns out, nearly everyone. That was at least my perception at the AIDS Walk. All around me were people hugging people, sharing smiles and spirit.

People in drag hugging passing admirers.

People hugging co-workers and service providers.

People hugging curmudgeons.

It was such a bizarre concept to me, seeing so many people give their warmness so freely. The driving spirit behind such kindness might just have been a collective sense of equality and acceptance. Indeed it is a rare day glorious drag queens, men in short shorts and combat boots, and long-haired dufuses wearing jeans in 90 degree weather (that’s me) intermingle as a well coordinated collective. This group was joined by a multitude of organizations, ranging from your friendly neighborhood Walmart, the Indiana State Department of Health, Anthem Blue Cross and Blue Shield, and the incredible Indy Pride, Inc group, among many others.

I know what you are thinking. “What brought all of these varied parties together?”. Perhaps you weren’t thinking that, but the idea you are furthers my exposition here. So bear with me.

To walk, is the answer to the question you may or may not have had.

Of course, it goes a little deeper than that. Many people were walking for many different reasons. Some, such as the gentleman I walked alongside for nearly the whole event, were walking for themselves and others like them, living with HIV and fighting to break the stigma that so often comes attached with a positive diagnosis. Others were walking for loved one’s, both living and passed, in the hopes of showing their support and respect for those who continue the fight for the dignity and respect of those living HIV positive.

Of course, all were walking to raise money for the Direct Emergency Financial Assistance (DEFA) fund – a statewide assistance fund for people living with HIV.  DEFA funds are a flexible assistance often used to fill the gaps that other services might miss. DEFA can be used to help a single parent purchase work clothes so she can start her job, or a recently unemployed person afford their medication. DEFA can help a person afford transportation to their medical appointment, or keep their heat on during the cold winter months. DEFA is an incredible fund that allows HIV service providers the flexibility to provide aid during some of the more unexpected crises life tends to present. This is a vital tool for both HIV service providers and people living with HIV.

This is the amazing aspect of the Indiana AIDS Walk – hundreds of people, from all walks of life (including dogs!), marching together to help improve outcomes for people living with HIV. While the majesty of such a concept speaks for itself, being there is indeed something special and further illustrates just how incredible such an act is. It can turn the most grumpy among us into believers in the human spirit and the power of a united community. It can reinforce the idea that we can make a real difference in the lives of real people just by working together and pitching in. It embodies the expression “From small things big things one day come”. (Is that an expression or just a Springsteen song? Either way, still awesome.) It builds confidence in the concept that what we do matters.

For me, it did all these things. To be there with all these remarkable people made me a believer in our ability to create something special and serve each other as brothers and sisters of this world. I like to think every person who took part in the AIDS Walk came out a better person, giving their time (and money) to create better outcomes for those in need of a hand up.

I can say that for myself, at the very least, and that is something powerful. If you do not believe me, I’d like propose you come out for the 2018 Indiana AIDS Walk and see for yourself.

Batt Deric

Deric Batt is a Supportive Care Specialist for Aspire Indiana Health HIV Services 

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Health Screening Changes to Know About

April 10, 2017

Hello again!  

You may be wondering about the health screenings that are recommended for someone of your age and gender. Who comes up with the recommendations? How do they know what is needed, what is necessary? This month, we’ll discuss the U.S. Preventative Services Task Force (USPSTF) Guidelines created to answer these questions and more.

According to the USPSTF website, the panel of independent, volunteer health care providers are experts in prevention and evidence based medicine. This panel, or task force, works to improve the health of all Americans by making their recommendations based on best practice and experience in their fields. These experts represent many types of health care practices, including fields such as family practice, internal medicine, gynecology, and behavioral health.

There have been many changes to the recommendations during the last 20 years. One such recommendation is the self breast exam. For years, women have been instructed on how to perform this exam on themselves. Through the years, evidence has shown that teaching this procedure has not reduced the number of deaths attributed to breast cancer, therefore, the recommendation has been removed as a preventative measure.

Another significant change is the frequency of mammography. For many years, mammograms have been recommended by most healthcare providers as a yearly test. It is now recommended every other year after the age of 50.

Lastly, prostate testing for males has changed as well. We no longer recommend routine screening for prostate cancer – or PSA (prostate specific antigen) testing – unless there are symptoms. Experts have found that the test is not specific for cancer and many false positives were found that caused needless worry and subsequent unnecessary procedures.

No need to be confused or try to keep track of all the changes! At your Aspire Indiana Health Center, our practitioners strive to stay up-to-date and current on the latest health and wellness prevention guidelines. Make your appointment today to talk about updated testing needed for your health and wellness journey.

To Good Health!


Syd Ehmke, FNP

Chief Operating Officer, Aspire Indiana Health


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Sharing Ideas with Aspire’s Consumer Advisory Committee

Lived Experience Involvement

Aspire is expanding the involvement of the voice of people with lived experience in our organizational structure.  Nationwide, health care providers are becoming more aware of the power of  incorporating this voice into service planning, delivery, and organizational decision making.  In the behavioral health arena, this is a move from separated support groups or consumer advocacy groups (such as NAMI, etc), to the employment of and reimbursement for Certified Recovery Support providers. It is a move toward incorporating consumer voices into the decision making and planning groups within an organization (workgroups, committees, boards of directors, etc).

After decades of working with external consumer advocacy groups such as the National Alliance for the Mentally Ill, Key Consumers, The Indiana Federation for Families, and many others, in 2013 , Aspire formally chartered the Consumer Advisory Committee.  This is a committee within the organizational structure made up of people we serve.  Since it’s inception, this committee has assisted Aspire in numerous initiatives and projects, and completed projects of its own.  

The Consumer Advisory Committee was instrumental in the development of all of our clinical and new employee orientation programs. These programs allow us to deliver the message of our mission and values, philosophies of care, and the array of our services with the voice of the people we serve.  The committee also helped us in developing better communication tools to assist people as they transition into and out of our inpatient services, and allowed us to understand from firsthand experience the difficulties of this transition.  They further assisted us with a review of all aspects of our services, from how we meet new people to the physical environment in which we serve them.  All from the perspective of someone who has lived through a traumatic experience.

Our Consumer Advisors provide us with feedback on interactions between consumers and employees, thus helping to improve our customer satisfaction. They have been a tremendously important sounding board for ideas and they have provided feedback on too  many projects to name.  They have even assisted us in procuring artwork for our facilities by orchestrating an art exhibition of works created by those we serve.

Recently, we have expanded the scope of the Consumer Advisory Committee to become a hub for the lived experience involvement and guidance that we desperately seek in specific initiatives.  We are very pleased to have three individuals with lived experience assisting us on our Zero Suicide Committee, as they bring unique perspectives from the youth, recovery support and outpatient communities.  They provide a great opportunity to ensure the decisions, products and workflows generated for this initiative may impact people we serve.

Additionally, we are currently adding six people with lived experience to our Primary and Behavioral Healthcare Integration (PBHCI) workgroup.  This group is working to improve integration of care between our primary care and behavioral health care services as Aspire implements a grant from the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA).

Aspire is very fortunate to have such an involved Consumer Advisory Committee as our organization changes and grows to meet challenges in the communities that we serve.


by Jim Skeel, Senior Director, Performance and Outcomes 

Posted in Addiction, Clinical Protocols, Deaf Services, depression, Employment, Health, HIV, Homelessness, Housing, Integrated Healthcare, Mental Health, Mental Illness, Primary Care, Recovery, Suicide Prevention, trauma, Workplace Culture | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Prevention, Preventative, and Treatment- What is the Difference?


The word “prevention” is a relatively new term that is frequently used when describing health-related testing, procedures, and exams. I mention “new” as you may be used to seeing the word “preventative,” which is an older term meaning the same thing as “preventive.” The dictionary defines preventative or preventive healthcare as measures taken for preventing disease instead of measures taken for treating the disease.

Let me give you an example:

Your healthcare provider may suggest to you, depending on your age, to take a baby aspirin every day. If you are someone that is at higher risk for stroke because of a family history of stroke, or because you have high blood pressure, taking a baby aspirin will help to prevent a blood clot from forming and causing damage. By taking the aspirin, you are trying to prevent this adverse event (stroke) from happening. You are practicing “prevention” instead of being treated for having a stroke.

Another example is having a colonoscopy. In having this test done, you are having polyps or other abnormalities identified so that they can be treated or removed, so cancer of the colon does not develop in the future. In essence, you are helping to prevent future colon cancer by having the screening done today.

There are several other examples of testing and therapies that Aspire Indiana Health uses to prevent disease. Our focus at Aspire Indiana Health is to see you for “preventive” visits instead of “treatment” visits. We would rather help you prevent a disease than have to treat one that develops. Don’t get me wrong- we are experts at treating all different disease states, but we would rather prevent them from ever occurring, and I think you would too.

So whether you say “preventive” or “preventative,” either term is acceptable. The staff members at Aspire Indiana Health don’t care how you spell it. We are just looking forward to seeing you to discuss this very important part of your healthcare journey with you. Let us help you prevent illnesses and worsening conditions by practicing prevention.

To Good Health! 


Syd Ehmke, COO Aspire Indiana Health 


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Antibiotics: A Balancing Act

A mother brings her 2 year old boy to see their health care provider after the baby has been sick for a day. After examining the baby, the clinician assesses that this is likely a viral illness and recommends rest and fluids. The mother asks if she can have an antibiotic prescription because that had made her feel better when she was sick. The health care provider is initially hesitant….. but ultimately complies and writes an antibiotic prescription. What went wrong?

Unfortunately, antibiotics are not wonder drugs that can cure any ailment. They have specific indications to help the body fight bacterial infections. Viral infections such as the common cold, the flu, and frequent causes of earaches, sore throats, or a wide variety of ailments will not be helped by antibiotics (outside of a potential placebo effect). Worse, improper use of antibiotics can cause real harm.

No medications are without side effects, and antibiotics are no exception. Penicillins and cephalosporins, two of the most common classes of antibiotics used in the outpatient setting, can cause rash or diarrhea. Further, these medications can kill protective bacteria in the gut leaving one susceptible to gut infections by more harmful bacteria. In addition, improper antibiotic use is linked to increasing antibiotic resistance. A real global health concern of the 21st century is that many bacterial infections will not have proper antibiotic treatment due in part to excessive and needless antibiotic use. If we want our antibiotics to be useful for us when we are really sick, we need to be careful not to use them when they will not help.

When your clinician recommends against using antibiotics, they are doing so with careful consideration of a number of factors. They ask not only ‘will this help?’ but ‘how can this harm?’ Balancing the scale between benefits and harms can be a tricky proposition, especially when clinicians and their patients see the potential harms and benefits differently. Health care providers and their patients need to work together to ensure that antibiotics are used appropriately to maximize benefit and minimize the risk of harm to ensure that antibiotics will be effective for many years to come.

By Ross Ehmke, MD, Columbia University 

Dr. Ehmke is the son of Aspire Indiana Health COO Syd Ehmke 


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Healthy Babies start with Healthy Moms

Aspire Indiana Health’s Syd Ehmke Continues her Series on Infant Mortality Prevention 

February, 2017

Greetings and Happy Valentine’s Day!  Like you, I have people in my life that I love and sometimes even give valentines to….. my husband and my kids. Having children was always a big dream of mine. I remember before I even got pregnant, having a regular medical exam and my doctor asking me if I wanted to have children. “Yes I can’t wait!,” I said.  And he said, “Well then you might want to lose some weight.”

I can remember thinking at the time that it was an odd comment. I mean, this was 30 years ago….long before I became a nurse practitioner or knew anything or thought anything about my health and how it was related to my future baby’s health. However, research shows us that he was exactly right!  Did you know that obesity can cause preeclampsia, miscarriage and gestational diabetes when you are pregnant?  And did you know that if you are diabetic and your blood sugars are not well controlled, that your baby can be born with birth defects like Down syndrome?  

And did you also know that smoking can cause low birth weight, preterm labor and preterm delivery….all of which are risk factors for infant death before the age of one? Aspire Indiana Health wants to help decrease the infant mortality rate in Madison County and help Mommy be healthy through weight control, smoking cessation and management of chronic diseases (hypertension, diabetes) even before she becomes pregnant!

So contact the providers at Aspire Indiana Health and find out more about how we can help you have a healthy baby.  Healthy babies love healthy mommies- and that is what this month is all about!

Read more about Aspire Indiana Health’s program to reduce infant mortality in Madison County here.

To good health!


Syd Ehmke, NP

COO, Aspire Indiana Health Inc.

Posted in Children & Adolescents, Health, Infant Mortality Prevention, Integrated Healthcare, Primary Care | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Personal Experience As a Therapy Tool

My name is Teresa Baker and I have lived with a serious mental illness for as long as I can remember. I know everyone’s experience with mental illness is different, but one thing we do share is that we fight invisible battles every day. That reality follows you through life.  Through every mundane thing, through every hard thing, and through happy times and bad. At first you try to hide it, then you make excuses for it. Ultimately, you have to face the truth of your symptoms and find a way through it.

I have been with Aspire Indiana for about 15 years now. For the first 12 years or so, I worked in group homes. I was drawn to the work. Having a family history of mental illness and living with my own symptoms over the years gave me a unique perspective for the mentally ill. I’ve always been able to find common ground with our consumers and understand their situations a little better than others who did not have personal experience. It was about 3 years ago when I met a Certified Recovery Specialist (CRS). We worked the same shift and we were able to share our personal experiences with mental illness. It was so nice having someone to talk to that knew what it was like to try to live a “normal” life and to fight through symptoms every day. That’s when she told me about becoming a CRS. Not long after that, I enrolled in the class and became a Certified Peer Specialist.

I have always had shared experience with the clients, but my education taught me how to use my lived experience to better serve others. Gone was all that remained in me of the notion that I was the expert who was supposed to tell others how to live. For the first time, the difference between me and them, staff and client, just fell away. I came out of that class a different person. My eyes were opened to all of the wondrous possibilities that a Peer can offer to a fellow person who is suffering with symptoms and trying to go through some of the struggles I lived through. I have a new purpose. My new mission is to walk beside the people who come to us seeking help and safety and to let them know, I know. To brush the tears away and tell them they are not alone anymore. To walk beside them with empathy and support as they discover their own recovery path that will lead them to finding happiness and fulfillment. But most of all, to give them hope. I have come to know that even though my own struggle is ongoing, I can still be a beacon of hope to others who are feeling like they will never be able to reach their goals. I can still be living proof that coping skills and medications work, that bad days aren’t forever, and that their lives and dreams are worth fighting for! I walk beside my clients, I lift them up when they can’t do it themselves, and I inspire hope for the future when they are lost in the darkness.  I share so much with the people I work with, and they see me as someone they can trust to be on their side and to understand their struggles. This work, and these people, have made me a better person. They help me as much as I help them. I have found my purpose in this work and I know it is what I am meant to do. I am proud to be a peer to these wonderful people, and I no longer hide my illness in the shadows.
My name is Teresa Baker, and I battle Major Depression with Anxiety and Panic Disorder.


Teresa Baker 

Certified Recovery Specialist,  Aspire Indiana

Watch this video to learn more about Peer Specialist roles at Aspire Indiana




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