Metro Atlanta AIDS service organizations AID Gwinnett and Positive Impact will combine their agencies on March 1 to become Positive Impact Health Centers, Inc., and establish itself as one of the largest HIV care centers in metro Atlanta. Both cater to many LGBT clients with Positive Impact’s MISTER Center that caters specifically to gay and bisexual men.

The new agency will have a budget of $6.5 million with nearly 100 staff members, 14 clinical interns and more than 300 volunteers, according to a press release.

The board of directors of both agencies voted Jan. 20 to merge. Founder and the only executive director of Positive Impact, Paul Plate, is retiring from his post; Larry Lehman, executive director of AID Gwinnett, will become the CEO of the newly-formed Positive Impact Health Centers.

Positive Impact recently relocated its organization to a new, larger Midtown location.

“I am excited to lead the combined organization into a new era of comprehensive healthcare for the HIV-affected,” Lehman said in a press release. “Paul Plate’s leadership and nurturing of Positive Impact for 22 years has created a groundbreaking HIV-specific behavioral health program with a robust prevention component. I look forward to continuing his legacy of care for our patients and clients.”

For Plate, stepping down from the organization that was the first to offer mental health services and substance abuse treatment for the HIV-affected, the new chapter of both organizations is a critical one.

“Positive Impact was founded at a time when neither mental health nor substance abuse treatment was seen as important for the HIV-affected. Those services have now become critically important components of the comprehensive care of those same clients,” he said.

The two organizations have collaborated for more than 20 years and finally officially teaming up was a time that had come, say board members.

“AID Gwinnett and Positive Impact have collaborated for the betterment of their respective clients for nearly 20 years,” José Jimenez, chair of Positive Impact and incoming chair of the board of directors of the new Positive Impact Health Centers, said in a prepared statement.

“These two organizations are experts in their fields—AID Gwinnett is a leader in HIV specialty primary care and Positive Impact is a pioneer in behavioral health treatment for the HIV-affected—and to see them combined is truly exciting for Atlanta and our clients,” he added.

The decision to merge came after two years of study and evaluation.

Bill Fleming, chair of AID Gwinnett and incoming vice chair of Positive Impact Health Centers, said the prospect of both agencies teaming up as one ensures quality care for patients.

“AID Gwinnett consistently provides HIV-health outcomes in the top 10 percent in the country, and Positive Impact’s MISTER Center is nationally ranked by the CDC as one of the top—if not the top—prevention program for young men of color,” he said in a press release.

From the press release:

Positive Impact Health Centers will have a budget of $6.5 million, with nearly 100 staff members, 14 clinical interns and more than 300 volunteers. The agency will be among the largest Atlanta community based organizations providing HIV care, with over 9,000 clients receiving services annually. It will also be one of the most comprehensive AIDS service organizations with multiple locations in Atlanta, with each branch providing a full menu of services: HIV specialty primary care, prevention services, mental health and substance abuse counseling, substance abuse treatment, housing support and pharmacy services. The Community Foundation for Greater Atlanta, through its Strategic Restructuring Fund, provided funding for the merger evaluation process.

AID Gwinnett was founded in 1990 by a grass roots group of concerned parents and volunteers who were caring for family members and friends infected with HIV, with programs initially providing supportive services and prevention education. It has since grown into one of the largest community based organization providers in metro Atlanta of HIV specialty primary care, with more than 800 clients in its primary care clinic. In addition to primary care and prevention services, AID Gwinnett offers HIV-specific support services including case management, dental services, nutritional counseling and meal delivery, medical transportation and housing assistance. AID Gwinnett currently accepts more than 20 insurance policies for many of its services. Positive Impact began providing behavioral health services on-site at AID Gwinnett in 1999.

Positive Impact was founded in 1993 to provide no-cost behavioral health care to people living with HIV and their caregivers and family members. The agency is now the only AIDS service organization in Georgia to be accredited by the Commission on Accreditation of Rehabilitation Facilities. Positive Impact now provides mental health counseling, licensed intensive outpatient substance abuse treatment and the MISTER Center’s prevention programs, which includes HIV testing and counseling, as well as STD testing and treatment. On January 4, 2015, AID Gwinnett opened a branch of its Ric Crawford Clinic on-site at Positive Impact’s Midtown Atlanta location to provide HIV primary care to newly diagnosed clients and those out of HIV-related primary care.

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