Health care grant for the homeless goes to Sandy Springs nonprofit

By Fran Memberg | fmemberg@atljewishtimes.com

Leslie Rubin - Atlanta Jewish Times

Leslie Rubin

Innovative Solutions for Disadvantage and Disability has been awarded a $250,000, five-year federal grant to provide health care for children of homeless veterans. To get the program operational, ISDD is working with the Department of Veterans Affairs and Mental Health America of Georgia to identify families who qualify.

ISDD (www.ISDD-home.org) is a Sandy Springs nonprofit founded by Jewish pediatrician Leslie Rubin in 2004 as the Institute for the Study of Disadvantage and Disability to address the connection between social and economic disadvantage and the prevalence of developmental disabilities and to improve access to services for children and families.

The nonprofit’s name was changed in 2013 to better reflect ISDD’s three core programs: Break the Cycle, Healthcare Without Walls and Project GRANDD. The program for homeless children of veterans, funded by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ Health Resources and Services Administration, will be modeled after Healthcare Without Walls, which started in 2010 with a $250,000 federal grant.

HWW volunteer Dr. Patrice Gaspard, a staff pediatrician with Kaiser Permanente, treats children twice a month at the Mary Hall Freedom House in Sandy Springs, a residential recovery program that empowers mothers and other women to break the cycle of addiction, poverty and homelessness.

Gaspard gives every child a checkup, manages medications and immunizations, and makes sure the medical needs are being met. Children who need additional care are referred to specialists or Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta. ISDD social workers work with children who have behavioral or emotional issues.

ISDD professionals are collaborating with the Mary Hall Freedom House to expand HWW to mothers who are military veterans, said Rainie Jueschke, the ISDD executive director. ISDD also will add programs targeting that population.

According to the ISDD grant proposal for the veteran project, the children of veterans are more likely than other children to think about suicide and to abuse substances. They are likely to have parents who suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder and more likely than other children to have parents who abuse alcohol or live in a domestically violent household. PTSD affects the whole family, but few veteran services are devoted to the families and fewer still to the children.

The first year of the ISDD veterans program will focus on mothers and their children. Beginning with the second year, male veterans will be screened at the Fort McPherson VA clinic in East Point for possible inclusion in the program for homeless children of veterans.

ISDD’s other core programs, Break the Cycle and Project GRANDD, started in 2004 and 2005, respectively.

Break the Cycle is a multidisciplinary research training program for college students and faculty to break the cycle of disadvantage and disability that includes, among other factors, limited education and employment options, which lead to limited housing options and environmental hazards, which lead to substandard housing and schools and exposure to violence, which lead to physical and mental health problems, and so forth.

At an annual conference, students present projects they’ve developed to address the issues. For example, a Georgia State University law student examined the relationship between a federal program that funded green improvements in low-income neighborhoods and the prevalence of asthma caused by environmental factors.

Conference project results have been published in journal supplements and form the basis of a book series. The 2015 Break the Cycle conference will be held April 23 and 24 at the Emory University Rollins School of Public Health.

Project GRANDD is a community-based support program for grandparents in metro Atlanta who are raising grandchildren who have disabilities, chronic illness, and behavior or learning difficulties. The program provides group educational meetings, monthly support groups, home visits, individual case management and practical help where needed.

Rubin, the ISDD founder, lives in Sandy Springs and is an active member of Congregation Beth Tefillah. A native of South Africa, he moved to Atlanta in 1994 to become director of developmental pediatrics at the Emory medical school and the medical director of the Marcus Institute. Since 1998, he has been involved with the Southeast Pediatric Environmental Health Specialty Unit at Emory. In 2004, he joined the Morehouse medical school faculty and founded ISDD.

Rubin started a cerebral palsy clinic in 1998 at Hughes Spalding Children’s Hospital, now affiliated with Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta. He observed that many of the children were born prematurely or to single mothers on drugs or were being raised by grandparents.

“I realized there was a cycle of social and economic disadvantage,” Rubin said. “I decided I would make a little difference [with ISDD] and perhaps that would join with others to make a bigger difference.”

So far, HWW has served more than 180 mothers with their children; 71 students from 24 colleges in the United States and one from Santiago, Chile, have presented Break the Cycle projects; and Project GRANDD has served more than 100 grandparents and 200 grandchildren.

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ISDD founder Leslie Rubin is an active member of Congregation Beth Tefillah.