VIRGIN ISLANDS






 

Virgin Islands
 
Mercedes Dullum, MD
Commissioner
Virgin Islands Department of Health
1303 Hospital Ground, Suite 10
St. Thomas, Virgin Islands 00802
Phone: (340) 777-6551
Fax: (340) 777-4001
Email: Mercedes.dullum@usvi-doh.gov
Website:www.healthvi.org/
 
Organizational Structure/History
 
The Governor of the Virgin Islands established an Office of Minority Health in July 1999 within the Department of Health (DOH). The Office of the Deputy Commissioner for Administrative Services and Management was designated to be the Territorial Office of Minority Health. Having the Minority Health Office at the Commissioner’s level allows for maximum ability to form linkages with federal, territorial, and private sector resources.
 
Purpose/Mission Statement
 
The mission of the VI Office of Minority Health (VIOMH) is to improve and protect the health of racial and ethnic populations through the development of health policies and programs that will increase awareness of and eliminate health disparities in the territory.
 
The Virgin Islands Office of Minority Health was established in order to provide an entity within the Virgin Islands Department of Health with the exclusive purpose of building greater capacity for minority populations in need. This office was established at the Deputy Commissioner’s level, giving it access to and equal participation in the highest decision-making and policy development in the Virgin Islands. The Region II OMH provided assistance to facilitate the development of the Virgin Islands OMH, the mission statement and purpose of the office, and the summit/conference on minority health in the territory.
 
The Office of Minority Health is independent of any specific departmental program area and has the flexibility and ability to develop and coordinate crosscutting health issues in the private and public sector. It has the ability to develop and coordinate programs for government agencies and for private community-based organizations.
 
The Virgin Islands population is composed of 78% Black non-Hispanic persons; 16% Hispanic persons; and 6% made up of White non-Hispanic and other ethnic groups. In addition, the Virgin Islands population consists of 34% foreign-born persons. Most are immigrants from other Caribbean islands who are often poor, non-English speaking, and unlikely to access health care without help. The Virgin Islands Office of Minority Health strives to address the health needs of minority groups and subgroups. The VIOMH mission focuses on the entire population, as well as the subgroups within the territory.
 
Program Focus/Activities
 
Health Initiatives/Programs/Services
 

 

HIV/AIDS Demonstration Grant
 
In September 2006, the Virgin Islands Office of Minority Health completed its sixth and final year of administering the State and Territorial HIV/AIDS Demonstration Grant. The office established an HIV Clearinghouse to serve as a central point of reference for local educational, technical, and professional resources; minority community-based organizations and governmental agencies; HIV/AIDS service providers and individuals in the territory. 
 
The HIV Clearinghouse developed a website for collecting, analyzing, and tracking existing epidemiological data on HIV/AIDS in the territory, nationally, and internationally.    In 2006,
the HIV clearinghouse website was redesigned and given a new domain name called www.usvihivclearinghouse.org. A quarterly newsletter (HIVoice) was also developed with a circulation of 500-1000 in the territory and abroad. Three (3) editions of the Directory entitled HIV/AIDS Services/Providers  were published, and 1000 copies were printed in October 2003, in July 2004, and in October 2007.   HIV/AIDS outreach workers distribute the directory, and they also use it as part of their reference material.
 
The Federal “Funding Sources” section on the website has a list of federal grant sources that are readily available to the public. However, once the office is notified of grant availability, notices are e-mailed to Community-Based Minority Organizations (CBMOs) and sent to both the electronic and print media. As a result of the Virgin Islands OMH efforts, the following grants were awarded to CBMOs:
NMAC Computer Grant: One CBO (HOPE) Helping Others in a Positive Environment was awarded a computer and $900 for a printer and software. HOPE is a 501(c) 3 organization that is serving the HIV positive clients on St. Thomas and St. John. Their first project was to implement a “Meals on Wheels Program” specifically for AIDS patients who did not qualify for the Dept. of Human Services’ Food Stamp Program. The “Meals on Wheels Program” continues to receive cases of water, Ensure/Boost, and juices each month. As more funds became available, cooked meals were distributed. The organization has expanded to include HIV testing and education in the high schools, at community organizations, and at the University of the Virgin Islands.
 
Capacity Building Mini-Grant Award: A total of four (4) organizations applied. A mini-grant of $2,500 was awarded to the Men’s Coalition of St. Croix for their HIV prevention classes for men who are convicted of domestic violence. HOPE was also awarded a mini grant of $2,500 for a series of HIV prevention and HIV 101 classes. The populations addressed were high school students and pregnant teenagers. On St. Croix, The Women Personal Support Network of The Village received technical assistance.
 
VIOMH Awarded Mini-Grants to HIV/AIDS Service Providers: Three (3) Community Based Organizations were awarded $4,000 in fiscal year 2005; and $4,500 was awarded to two (2) organizations in fiscal year 2006 for board development training, an HIV prevention media campaign, and website development. The purpose of the mini-grants was to assist community-based minority-serving organizations (CBMSOs) to design pertinent training for their staff and board of directors, and to build their capacity to provide services to the HIV/AIDS populations.
National Public Health Week
 
The VIOMH has been instrumental in the coordination of National Public Health Week activities in the territory over the past seven years. The following highlights activities since our involvement in 2001:
 
2001
National Public Health Week was observed by the VIOMH on April 3, 2001 with a major public health conference on St. Thomas.  The theme of the conference was “Healthy People in Healthy Communities” Building on a Legacy of Public Health in the Virgin Islands. The conference provided a historical perspective of Public Health in the territory, publicly announced the Office of Minority Health and the HIV Clearinghouse website, kicked off the process for the development of the VI Territorial Health Plan, and recognized the accomplishment of the first local Commissioner of Health, a 97 year-old former U.S. Public Health Service employee. Representatives from the Region II Regional Health Administrator’s Office and the Office of Minority Health spoke at the conference. In keeping with the theme, a proclamation was issued by the Governor in recognition of National Public Health Week.
 
2002
The VIOMH participated in the various National Public Health Week activities planned for the territory. Health fairs were held in both districts, and an Open House and Health Fair was held on St. John. A walk-a-thon and employee fun day was held on both St. Thomas and St. Croix.
 
2003
Spearheaded by the VIOMH, National Public Health Week was observed April 7-12, 2003 with a major public health conference on Tuesday, April 8th on St. Thomas. The theme was “Getting in Shape for the Future - Healthy Eating and Active Living.” The Governor issued a proclamation recognizing National Public Health Week in the territory. Additional activities, such as health screening fairs and health careers presentations, were held at various schools throughout the week in both the St. Thomas/St. John and St. Croix Districts. Additionally, and most importantly, the Healthy Virgin Islands 2010 Plan was unveiled and presented to the public. Representatives from the Office of Minority Health, Region II, were on hand for the presentation and conference. The week ended with the annual walk-a-thon and employee stress release day.
 
2004
For the third year, the VIOMH spearheaded the National Public Health Week activities. A workshop for DOH employees was held on St. Thomas, Monday, April 5, 2004 with the theme, “Eliminating Health Disparities: Communities Moving from Statistics to Solution.  Two representatives from the Department of Health and Human Services, Region II office joined in the observation of National Public Health Week activities. On Tuesday, April 6, health fairs and screenings were held at the Emancipation Garden on St. Thomas, at the Sunny Isle Shopping Center on St. Croix, and at the Band Stand in Cruz Bay, St. John. On Wednesday, a walk-a-thon was held in both districts for DOH staff that culminated in a fun day/stress releaser for the employees.
 
2005
The VIOMH spearheaded the National Public Health Week activities in both Districts. The theme for this year was “Empowering Americans to Live Stronger, Longer,” April 4-10, 2005. A workshop for Health administrators was held entitled “Managing Your Health to Live Stronger Longer.” The week of activities included health fairs, and career talks at various schools, culminating with a walk-a-thon for staff in both districts. The Governor issued a proclamation recognizing National Public Health Week in the territory.
 
2006
The National Public Health Week theme was Designing Healthy Communities: Raising Healthy KIDS.”  The VIOMH focused on asthma, child safety, and healthy air quality for children. In recognition of National Public Health Week, the Governor issued a proclamation in keeping with the theme. The week of April 3-7 consisted of health professionals educating the public on Radio Talk Shows and on community-based television programs. Indoor Air Quality Toolkits were also prepared for distribution to the various private and public schools on all three (3) islands. Staff also conducted presentations at selected schools. The week of activities concluded with a Walk-a-thon for VIDOH staff.
 
2007
The VIOMH hosted a myriad of activities on all three (3) islands in celebration of National Public Health Week, April 2-8. The theme was “Take the First Step! Preparedness and Public Health Threats: Addressing the Unique Needs of our Nation’s Vulnerable Populations.” The Governor issued a proclamation recognizing National Public Health Week in the territory. Activities consisted of health fairs on St. Thomas and St. Croix, free immunizations for the public on the island of St. John, interviews on local radio and TV programs, and a walk-a-thon for staff on all three (3) islands. The Health Fair activities on St. Thomas were geared to youth, and six (6) schools supported the event by sending more than 150 students in grades 6-8. One representative from the Region II OMH office attended this year’s activities; and OMH Region II also donated disaster preparedness supplies for public distribution at the health fairs. 
 
2008
The VIOMH participated in the planning and coordination of National Public Health Week activities in the territory, which was celebrated April 7-13, 2008. The national theme was “Climate Change: Our Health in Balance.” Activities included an open-house on St. Croix and St. John, radio and television interviews of Department of Health’s medical and public preparedness staff, and an educational outreach health fair at the Roy Lester Schneider Hospital on St. Thomas. Two (2) persons from the community were recognized for their contributions to public health during the open house held on St. Croix. Displays were exhibited throughout the week in both districts, which focused on the local theme, “Climate Change: Our Health in Balance,” “The Environment and You.” The week of activities culminated on Friday with a fitness walk by VIDOH staff on each island. The Governor issued a proclamation recognizing National Public Health Week in the territory.
 
Eliminating Health Disparities Statewide Initiatives
 
Healthy Virgin Islands 2010 Plan - Improving Health for All
This ten-year plan for the territory conforms to the overarching goals of the national agenda, which are: 1) to increase the quality and years of life; and 2) to eliminate health disparities among populations. The Plan was unveiled Monday, April 7, 2003, at a press conference held at Government House. The Lt. Governor was present to receive the Plan on behalf of the Governor. Members of the Region II OMH office were also in attendance. On September 30, 2003, the Department of Health’s Program Directors attended a workshop sponsored by VI OMH entitled, “Developing Action Plans for Healthy Virgin Islands 2010.” VIOMH will be working on further processes to develop and implement strategies to achieve the goals and objectives set forth in the HVI 2010 Plan.
 
Partnership Initiatives
 
  • The Virgin Islands OMH and the Region II OMH established a partnership for a series of Public Health Training Initiatives for public health staff and other health care providers in the territory. The first was the Public Health Conference held in April 2001. The second was a data training conference held June 20-21, 2001 entitled, “Data and Quantitative Methods for Public Health Planning and Assessment.”   In addition to expanding the knowledge base of the participants, the training stressed the importance of accurate data as a basis for planning, program evaluation and assessment, policy and decision-making, and funding. 
     
  • A State Partnership Initiative Grant for $20,000 was received to support the development of a Territorial Health Plan. The national agenda, Healthy People 2010, provided the framework for the health planning process in the territory. As part of the planning process, the VIOMH supported a Department of Health retreat in June 2001, during which time the Department of Health developed a strategic plan. VIOMH provided data training in the SPSS statistical software program for staff from the DOH, the hospitals, the health centers, and the Primary Care Office. 
     
  • A contract for $4,000 was awarded to the VIOMH by the Office of Minority Health, Region II in FY 2005 to provide technical assistance to grass roots organizations performing health- related services. The purpose of the funding was to facilitate the organizations in obtaining their 501 (c) 3 tax exempt status in order to position them to apply for a variety of grants. Four (4) organizations attended the training sessions and two (2) prepared their articles of incorporation and by-laws, with the final step being the 501 (c) 3 application. 
     
  • The VIDOH designed a Longitudinal Study that reported on the status of HIV/AIDS in the Territory over a twenty (20) year period (1983-2003). The report was published in June 2007. This report was produced in collaboration with the VIOMH, the DOH STD/HIV/TB Program, and the University of the Virgin Islands, Division of Social Sciences. 
     
  • Through the HIV/AIDS Demonstration Grant, the VIOMH partnered with the VI Department of Health’s HIV/STD/TB Program and the Florida Caribbean/AETC to present the first Department of Health and AIDS Education and Training Center VI Physicians Conference, June 23, 2007. This conference provided an opportunity for public and private Physicians, licensed in the territory, to learn of new issues regarding HIV/AIDS Treatment, Care and Reporting in the area. They also learned how they can integrate Rapid HIV Testing in their private offices and improve services available to HIV positive clients. 
Level of Funding Sources
 
The Virgin Islands OMH has been supported by in-kind services from the VIDOH and from the following grants over the years:
 
FY 2000          Region II OMH assisted with the establishment of the VIOMH.
FY 2000          $20,000 State Partnership Initiative to support the Territorial Health Plan.
FY 2001-06     $197,000 HIV/AIDS Demonstration Grant
FY 2001          Region II OMH Public Health Training Initiative
FY 2002          Region II OMH Public Health Training – Data Training for Public Health Planning & Policy Development
FY 2003          Region II OMH supported the National Public Health Week Activities.
FY 2004          Region II OMH supported the National Public Health Week Activities.
FY 2005-06     Region II OMH provided $4,000 contract for VIOMH to assist grass roots health care organizations obtain their 501 (c) 3 status.
FY 2007          Region II OMH supported the National Public Health Week Activities with donated items.
FY 2008          OMH State Partnership to Improve Minority Health Grant, 2008-2010.  This $125,000, three-year grant will provide support to the VIDOH in its efforts to reduce health disparities in asthma and to increase cultural sensitivity among the health care staff through cultural diversity training and basic foreign language classes. 
 
Year                 Federal              State             Private               

FY 2005
$148,750
 $602,000
   0
FY 2006     
$150,000  
 $742,000
   0
FY 2007     
$164,000   
 $742,000
   0
FY 2008
$164,000
 $742,000
   0

 
Resources
 
The Deputy Commissioner for Administrative Services and Management serves as the Director for VIOMH. As of September 2006, the HIV/AIDS Clearinghouse had one full-time District Coordinator funded through the HIV Demonstration Grant. That person has been transferred to another position but continues to provide in-kind services with VIOMH responsibilities.