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Conflict Center to mediate for Ryan White grievances
by Liz Baudler
2014-07-16

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The Chicago Center For Conflict Resolution ( CCR ) offers free mediation services to anyone who wants them. "We've done landlord-tenant disputes, or neighbor disputes, even siblings and couples breaking up," said Rae Kyristi, J.D, the mediation services director.

"The idea of mediation is that the parties in conflict will sit down with a neutral third party and discuss what's happening. The mediator doesn't make decisions like a judge or arbitrator or give advice the way an attorney would. They help make sure everyone has a chance to speak and be heard. Things that aren't relevant to a legal proceeding, like, "I'm really sad"—that's relevant to a conflict, but it's not something our legal system can handle," said Kyristi.

CCR's know-how applies to those receiving HIV care under Part A of the Ryan White Act, which makes treatment available for those with an HIV+ diagnosis. Providers must have a grievance process in place in order to receive funding through that act. Since 2005, CCR has run the CARE Line, a grievance hotline for clients and providers to discuss issues raised during treatment. Services are available to anyone, including Spanish-speakers, although sit-down mediation only takes place in the Chicago office.

"A good example of when to call might be when people feel like they're struggling to access their services. That's one of the first things we check—are you getting services?" Kyristi said. "At the same time, we can be helpful if an agency is having a hard time with a client. If you've been at one agency for many years and you have to move, the program might be different, the access to a doctor might be different. We support both service providers and clients."

"When should you call? If you don't know who to call. If you've tried to get it resolved and you've talked to the people you think should be able to resolve it. We can make a few more phone calls to figure it out. Sometimes clients call and we help them think about whatever problem they're having, and they realize, oh, I can figure this out. Sometimes we do a phone conciliation, where we reach out to the agency or the caseworker or the doctor. Sometimes it's as simple as one piece of paper that didn't get filed. Or sometimes, people don't even know who their caseworker is. Or a client's not aware of what the grievance process is at the agency and how to access it. We might help get them into whatever system's in place. But sometimes that system doesn't work, or isn't satisfactory, and so another option is mediation between the client and someone from the agency."

Kyristi stressed that the process is absolutely confidential. "There are just a few people who answer these calls, one person handles the case. It's very hands-on. You can call any time and leave a message—we check it daily. We'd get back to you within 48 hours."

CCR does report grievances with agencies to the Department of Public Health and Human Services, but those reports contain "loose details", according to Kyristi. "Like 'client couldn't access whatever', or 'staff member called about coworker.' There's a little oversight, but it's anonymous, and it creates accountability. For agencies too, there's value, especially when it's resolved— that gets reported as well. It can help make it clear to the agency that their formal grieving process isn't obvious to clients. It's usually about missing pieces of information, and we're able, from this neutral place, to be able to help do that. Sometimes people in conflict just want a record somewhere and that's sufficient."

The CARE Line number is 1-866-CARE-212 ( 227-3212 ). More information can also be found at ccrchicago.weebly.com/specialized-programs.html .


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