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PRESS ROOM: New Analysis Finds Leading State-Based Marketplaces Have Performed Well

NNPA NEWSWIRE — The report examines the impact that federal and state actions have had on state-based marketplaces and the federally facilitated marketplace (FFM). Cumulative premium increases in California, Massachusetts and Washington are less than half of the increases seen in FFM states, but 2019 premium increases spiked in California and Washington compared to Massachusetts, which continued its state-based penalty.

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“The lesson is striking: Consumers are the big winners when marketplaces use all the tools of the Affordable Care Act,” said Covered California Executive Director Peter V. Lee. “The policies underway in these three states are easily transferable, and if applied to the federal marketplace, taxpayers would save billions of dollars in subsidies, and middle-class Americans would benefit from much lower premiums.”

WASHINGTON D.C. — A new report highlights the benefits of state-based exchanges, particularly in the areas of controlling premium costs and attracting new enrollment. The report, which was produced by Covered California, the Massachusetts Health Connector and the Washington Health Benefit Exchange, found that premiums in these states were less than half of what consumers saw in the 39 states that relied on the federally facilitated marketplace (FFM) between 2014 and 2019.

“The lesson is striking: Consumers are the big winners when marketplaces use all the tools of the Affordable Care Act,” said Covered California Executive Director Peter V. Lee. “The policies underway in these three states are easily transferable, and if applied to the federal marketplace, taxpayers would save billions of dollars in subsidies, and middle-class Americans would benefit from much lower premiums.”

The joint report examined how state and federal actions affected premiums and new enrollment.

State-Based Marketplaces Controlled Premium Growth

The report examined the cost of coverage by comparing the average benchmark premium in three states and the FFM between 2014 and 2019. The weighted average increase in California, Massachusetts and Washington was 39 percent, compared to the 85 percent increase in FFM states.

In addition, the report also found if the FFM states had experienced the same lower premium growth seen in the three states, the federal government could have saved roughly $35 billion in lower subsidy payments between 2014 and 2018.

While the report did not quantify the increased costs paid by unsubsidized consumers in FFM states, they would have saved substantially and been less likely to have been priced out of coverage.

State-Based Marketplaces Performed Better at Enrolling New Consumers

The report also examined the impact on new enrollment of recent federal decisions on marketing and outreach and the elimination of the individual mandate penalty.

Figure 1: Average Benchmark Premium Growth by Percentage Compared to 2014

Source: Kaiser Family Foundation. Estimate of cost savings use benchmark premium data. FFM includes SBM-FP states.

During the final days of open enrollment for the 2017 plan year, the federal administration began a series of cuts to marketing and outreach on behalf of FFM states. These cuts have been deepened and maintained, resulting in a significant reduction in new enrollment in states served by the federal marketplace. The decrease in new enrollment likely means a less-healthy consumer pool, which would lead to the larger premium increases seen above.

From 2016 to 2018, the 39 FFM states saw the number of new enrollees drop from 4 million to 2.5 million, a decrease of 40 percent. By contrast, new enrollment in California, Massachusetts and Washington — states that control their own marketing and outreach — remained relatively stable (see Figure 2: New Enrollment Growth by Marketplace, Comparing 2016 to 2018).

“State-based marketplaces know that health insurance is a product that needs to be actively sold to consumers, and getting the word out is a proven way to promote enrollment,” said Pam MacEwan, chief executive officer of the Washington Health Benefit Exchange. “Enrolling more people means a healthier risk pool, which lowers premiums and saves money for everyone in the individual market.”

Figure 2:  New Enrollment Growth by Marketplace, Comparing 2016 to 2018

Clear Indication of the Critical Role of the Individual Mandate Penalty in Promoting Enrollment

The open-enrollment period that just concluded for the 2019 coverage year marked the first time the marketplaces would operate without a federal individual mandate penalty, which was zeroed out through the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act of 2017 and signed into law by the president. During the most recent open-enrollment period, new enrollment in FFM states dropped an additional 16 percent — on top of the already large drop of 40 percent in the prior two years. California and Washington also experienced steep declines in the number of new enrollees signing up for coverage. However, Massachusetts — which kept a state-level mandate penalty — saw new enrollment increase by 31 percent (see Figure 3: New Enrollment Growth by Marketplace, Comparing 2018 to 2019).

Figure 3:  New Enrollment Growth by Marketplace, Comparing 2018 to 2019

“The individual mandate in Massachusetts has proven to be an effective part of our effort to provide access to affordable coverage to everyone,” said Louis Gutierrez, executive director of the Massachusetts Health Connector. “Our experience shows that a mandate that provides incentive to participate, while also delivering important protections and benefits to consumers, plays a vital role not only in people getting covered, but also staying covered.”

Other marketplaces have also instituted a penalty, such as New Jersey and the District of Columbia. While critics may point to lower new enrollment in New Jersey as proof that a penalty is not effective, Lee says that is not the case. “The penalty works, and to solely highlight New Jersey — which had a penalty in place, but also had its marketing and outreach efforts undercut — is not a reasonable comparison.”

“While Washington kept premium increases in the early years of the Affordable Care Act to low single digits, the past three years have seen big increases due to federal policy changes that continue to bring uncertainty to the market, including the zeroing of the individual mandate penalty,” said MacEwan. “In particular, 2019 saw an almost 14 percent premium increase. These premium increases are having a large negative impact on the many Washington consumers who do not benefit from a subsidy.”

The release of the report comes on the same day that leaders of the California and Massachusetts marketplaces appeared before the Health Subcommittee of the U.S.

House Committee on Energy and Commerce. View the hearing on “Strengthening Our Health Care System: Legislation to Lower Consumer Costs and Expand Access.”

Read the testimonies of representatives from California and Massachusetts at the committee hearing.

About Covered California

Covered California is the state’s health insurance marketplace, where Californians can find affordable, high-quality insurance from top insurance companies. Covered California is the only place where individuals who qualify can get financial assistance on a sliding scale to reduce premium costs. Consumers can then compare health insurance plans and choose the plan that works best for their health needs and budget. Depending on their income, some consumers may qualify for the low-cost or no-cost Medi-Cal program.

Covered California is an independent part of the state government whose job is to make the health insurance marketplace work for California’s consumers. It is overseen by a five-member board appointed by the governor and the Legislature. For more information about Covered California, please visit www.CoveredCA.com.

Covered California can be contacted at media@covered.ca.gov or (916) 206-7777.

About the Massachusetts Health Connector
The Massachusetts Health Connector is the Commonwealth’s health insurance exchange, and currently provides health or dental insurance to more than 300,000 people. Individuals and small businesses can search for and purchase high-quality, commercial coverage, while reaping the health and financial benefits of being covered. Individuals and small businesses can find health insurance options at www.MAhealthconnector.com.

For information on the Massachusetts Health Connector, contact Jason Lefferts, director of Communications and Media Relations, at (617) 933-3141.

About the Washington Health Benefit Exchange
The Washington Health Benefit Exchange, or Washington Healthplanfinder, is an online marketplace for individuals and families in Washington to compare and enroll in health insurance coverage and gain access to tax credits, reduced cost-sharing and public programs such as Medicaid. The next open-enrollment period in Washington begins on Nov. 1.

The Washington Health Benefit Exchange can be reached at ben.spradling@wahbexchange.org.

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Memphis third grade reading scores dip as district builds case for retaining students

NEW TRI-STATE DEFENDER — Fewer Memphis third grade students than last year are accomplished readers, according to Shelby County Schools’ annual state test data released is discussing in meetings with parents. About 24% of third graders in Shelby County Schools scored proficient in reading on the state’s standardized assessment TNReady. That’s down from about 27% last year, and in contrast to 36% of elementary students statewide who tested proficient.

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Student read a book during a reading circle at Gardenview Elementary School in Memphis, Tennessee. (Photo: Karen Pulfer Focht/Chalkbeat TÑ)
Student read a book during a reading circle at Gardenview Elementary School in Memphis, Tennessee. (Photo: Karen Pulfer Focht/Chalkbeat TÑ)

By Lee Eric Smith

Fewer Memphis third grade students than last year are accomplished readers, according to Shelby County Schools’ annual state test data released is discussing in meetings with parents.

About 24% of third graders in Shelby County Schools scored proficient in reading on the state’s standardized assessment TNReady. That’s down from about 27% last year, and in contrast to 36% of elementary students statewide who tested proficient.

The full results from spring testing are scheduled to be released next week, but Memphis district officials shared the statistic this week at a meeting with parents on a new retention policy that will hold back second grade students who aren’t reading on grade level. The policy will begin in the 2021-22 school year.

Antonio Burt, the district’s chief academic officer, declined to speculate on why the scores dipped. Rather, he said the district would be looking to hone existing strategies — such as daily 45-minute small-group instruction and teacher leaders dedicated to foundational reading skills — and equip new second grade teacher assistants.

“The work and the need around K through 2 is so important,” he told Chalkbeat after Wednesday’s community meeting at Gaisman Community Center to explain the district’s retention plan.

“And as a state, we’re still recovering from the standards shift,” he added later about the state’s 2016 change to a new test with tougher requirements.

The news is a blow to the district’s efforts to strengthen early literacy, which has been a priority for the Memphis district. Superintendent Joris Ray and his leadership team often point to the correlation between third grade reading levels and a similar percentage of students considered college-ready on the ACT test.

Antonio Burt, the chief academic officer for Shelby County Schools, speaks to parents and teachers about the district’s upcoming second grade retention policy and strategies to improve reading. (Photo by: Laura Faith Kebede/Chalkbeat)

Antonio Burt, the chief academic officer for Shelby County Schools, speaks to parents and teachers about the district’s upcoming second grade retention policy and strategies to improve reading. (Photo by: Laura Faith Kebede/Chalkbeat)

“We know that if our kids that don’t master reading prior to third grade, they’re four times more likely to drop out of school,” Burt told parents Wednesday evening. “That same student would then be four times more likely to be incarcerated.”


Related: Learn more about the English curriculum that was introduced in late 2017


Shelby County Schools is aiming to have 90% of its third grade students reading proficiently by the year 2025. That’s higher than the state’s goal of 75% for that same year.

This year’s kindergarten class would be the first group that could be held back a year because of Shelby County Schools new retention policy, Burt said. The district will require students to meet eight of 12 benchmarks, including minimum report card grades and reading scores, throughout the year in order to pass second grade.

Candace Marshall, a prekindergarten teacher and parent, said she mostly favors the retention policy and had faced resistance at a Memphis charter school when she wanted her niece to repeat first grade.

“I don’t want her to be a statistic. It made me question how many other kids get passed along,” she told Chalkbeat.

The post Memphis third grade reading scores dip as district builds case for retaining students appeared first on Chalkbeat.

This article originally appeared in the New Tri-State Defender

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Duo teams up for food and clothing drive for homeless veterans on Saturday

NEW TRI-STATE DEFENDER — Memphis is experiencing a serious problem with homelessness and poverty among veterans but a new nonprofit is hoping to ease the burden.

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(l-r) Jalissa Marshall and Sequoria Wilson-Chatmon are teaming up to raise funds for homeless veterans. (Photo by: /tri-statedefender.com)
(l-r) Jalissa Marshall and Sequoria Wilson-Chatmon are teaming up to raise funds for homeless veterans. (Photo by: /tri-statedefender.com)

By Destiny Royston

Memphis is experiencing a serious problem with homelessness and poverty among veterans but a new nonprofit is hoping to ease the burden.

On Aug. 10, from 6:30 to 8:30 a.m., Help the Homeless Veterans will hosted a food and clothing drive in downtown Memphis at the corner of Adams Avenue and Main Street.

Sequoria Wilson-Chatmon, who served in the Army for 10 years and went on four combat tours to Afghanistan and Iraq, is spearheading the event that will provide food, clothing and other needed items for the homeless and those who are struggling. Wilson-Chatmon and her husband are both disabled veterans..

Jalissa Marshall, who is the wife of another disabled vet, will be alongside Wilson-Chatmon helping with the event to bring awareness to homelessness.

“Jalissa and I discuss these issues all the time,” said Wilson-Chatmon. “We decided it was time to turn words into actions, and that was the birth of ‘Help the Homeless Veterans Food and Clothing Giveaway.’

Being a disabled vet, Wilson-Chatmon knows the harsh reality about men and women who have served the nation who now face homelessness and hunger.

Veteran or not, people who are in need of items, food and clothing are encouraged to come to the event, as many organizations around the city that assist those in need have strict qualifications that many don’t meet. Their goal is to look out for everyone because homelessness and hunger know no criteria.

The ladies hope to serve at least 50 personnel. Wilson-Chatmon wants to continue sponsoring events like this so that she and her team can become a well-established nonprofit organization that does more than hand out items in Memphis.

She wants to provide shelter and help rebuild communities and cater to everyone, especially those who don’t meet the qualifications of the larger organizations.

“No one deserves to sleep on the streets. As a community, it starts with us,” said Wilson-Chatmon. “We hope to inspire others to act no matter how small.”

Supporters of veterans can donate items such as water and clothing at Watson’s Barber & Beauty Shop on 2236 Pendleton St., until Aug. 9.

This article originally appeared in the New Tri-State Defender

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Push to ban plastic bag sat groceries falls short

NEW TRI-STATE DEFENDER — Plastic bags will still be used in grocery stores, despite some Memphis City Council members’ efforts to ban them. Tuesday, the council rejected an ordinance that would have required grocery stores to ban the use of plastic shopping bags.

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By Erica R. Williams

Plastic bags will still be used in grocery stores, despite some Memphis City Council members’ efforts to ban them. Tuesday, the council rejected an ordinance that would have required grocery stores to ban the use of plastic shopping bags.

“This is an effort for us to do something different in the State of Tennessee,” Councilman Berlin Boyd, who sponsored the ordinance, said before the vote.

Boyd has continued to push for the ban despite a recent state law barring cities from regulating single-use plastic such as grocery bags. He argues that using them is costing the city too much money.

“If we pass this here, it will give us the leverage to negotiate on a state level,” he told fellow council members.

Some have complained that lawmakers are considering the bans to cater to plastic-industry lobbyists. Boyd said that’s not it, pointing out that the city’s Division of Public Works spends $3 million each year to dispose of the bags.

Last year before proposing the ban, Boyd suggested a seven-cent fee on plastic bags that shoppers take from retail stores. He then reduced the proposed fee to five cents earlier this year.

In other action

* Memphis 3.0 was dropped from this council meeting’s agenda. Last month council members voted on hiring an outside consultant to review the comprehensive development plan. They will delay voting until after the consultant’s review of the plan.

The consultant has until September 17 to present findings.

The Memphis 3.0 plan had been challenged by New Chicago community members who believe the plan excludes some neighborhoods based on race. A $10 billion lawsuit filed against the city was later dismissed.

Mayor Jim Strickland has signed an executive order that allows parts of the 3.0 plan to move forward.

* Council members approved an honorary street name change for Bishop David Allen Hall Sr., longtime pastor of Temple Church of God In Christ at 672 S. Lauderdale. The resolution calls for a street name of East Georgia Ave. between South Lauderdale and South Orleans. Councilwoman Cheyenne Johnson sponsored the resolution.

* The council delayed voting on the third and final reading of an ordinance that would present new rules for public art placement.

This article originally appeared in the New Tri-State Defender

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The African American Film Critics Association (AAFCA) TV Honors Winners Announced

LOS ANGELES SENTINEL — Ava DuVernay’s “When They See Us” earned four wins from the African American Film Critics Association, who today, announced the winners of its upcoming AAFCA TV Honors. The highly popular Netflix limited series about the infamous Central Park rape case that resulted in the arrest and false imprisonment of five Black youths, received the following group awards: Best Limited Series, Best Ensemble, Best Writing and Breakthrough Performance for Jharrel Jerome who plays Korey Wise in the series.

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Angela Bassett (Photo by: David Shankbone | Wiki Commons)
Angela Bassett (Photo by: David Shankbone | Wiki Commons)

By Sentinel News Service

Ava DuVernay’s “When They See Us” earned four wins from the African American Film Critics Association, who today, announced the winners of its upcoming AAFCA TV Honors. The highly popular Netflix limited series about the infamous Central Park rape case that resulted in the arrest and false imprisonment of five Black youths, received the following group awards: Best Limited Series, Best Ensemble, Best Writing and Breakthrough Performance for Jharrel Jerome who plays Korey Wise in the series.

Other big wins went to the popular Starz drama “Power,” which begins its sixth and final season August 25th, and the CBS comedy, “The Neighborhood” starring Cedric the Entertainer and Tichina Arnold now entering its second season. Angela Bassett and Sterling K. Brown earned Best Performance Female and Male awards for their respective portrayals in the series “9-1-1” on Fox and “This Is Us” on NBC.

In all, the sixteen-year-old association will give out ten awards during its inaugural event, including honoring mega-producer Ryan Murphy with the AAFCA TV Icon Award and big three network, CBS, with the AAFCA Inclusion Award for its diverse programming and talent.

“It is impossible to ignore TV’s popularity and remarkable influence on America’s pop culture landscape today,” says AAFCA president Gil Robertson IV. “As the stature of the small screen continues to expand, it has become increasingly more diverse and inclusive, a movement that we at AAFCA wholeheartedly embrace and champion. The honorees for our first AAFCA TV Honors represent the very best of television programming. They all successfully put a mirror up to our world to tell stories that are refreshingly diverse and authentic. We feel that this new wave of innovative, thought-provoking storytelling is inspiring and deserving of celebration.”

The honorees will be feted at AAFCA TV Honors during a private brunch on Sunday, August 11, 2019 at the California Yacht Club in Marina Del Rey, CA.

AAFCA TV HONORS 2019 Winners:

Best Drama – “Power” (Starz)

Best Comedy – “The Neighborhood” (CBS)

Best Limited Series – “When They See Us” (Netflix)

Best Performance Female – Angela Bassett (9-1-1) FOX

Best Performance Male – Sterling K. Brown (“This Is Us”) NBC

Best Ensemble –– “When They See Us” (Netflix)

Best Writing – “When They See Us” (Netflix)

Breakthrough Performance – Jharrel Jerome, “When They See Us” (Netflix)

AAFCA TV Honors Inclusion Award – CBS

AAFCA TV Honors ICON Award – Ryan Murphy

This article originally appeared in The Los Angeles Sentinel.

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Linsey Davis Teaches Celebrating Diversity with Her Second Children’s Book ‘One Big Heart: A Celebration of Being More Alike Than Different’

LOS ANGELES SENTINEL — Linsey Davis Teaches Celebrating Diversity with Her Second Children’s Book ‘One Big Heart: A Celebration of Being More Alike Than Different’ ABC News Correspondent, author, and mother Linsey Davis returns to the bookshelf with her second children’s book titled, “One Big Heart: A Celebration of Being More Alike Than Different.”

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Linsey Davis (Courtesy photo
Linsey Davis (Courtesy Photo)

By Saybin Roberson,

Linsey Davis Teaches Celebrating Diversity with Her Second Children’s Book ‘One Big Heart: A Celebration of Being More Alike Than Different’

 

ABC News Correspondent, author, and mother Linsey Davis returns to the bookshelf with her second children’s book titled, “One Big Heart: A Celebration of Being More Alike Than Different.”

Inspired by her son’s life and growth, Davis began writing books as love letters and life lessons to her son, with an emphasis on creating characters that looked like him. “One Big Heart” focuses on highlighting how our differences bring us all together.

“I felt like for him growing up during this time it was essential to affirm what kids already know, which is basically that they have this ability to find common ground,” she says of her new book. Understanding that children know what makes them different, but not the mindset of placing labels on individuals.

“I think kids are better than adults in that way of setting aside differences and just looking for what we have in common.”

Based on a foundation of love, Davis’s intentions to bring peace and inclusion are prominent within her books. “God gave us all this one special gift, he gave us each a heart and that’s the most important part because that’s where love starts.

As a mother of a five-year-old, fulltime news reporter, and author, Davis wears many hats working around the clock feeding each aspect of her life. Writing both “One Big Heart”and her first, “The World Is Awake: A Celebration of Everyday Lessons,” Davis says brought her closer to her son as he grew, both teaching each other ways to do life.

“I think so much about the theme of this book is that the students can become the teachers, adults can really learn from children,” she states. Noting the differences between children having no preconceived notions of what is bad or good based on appearance. Believing children are taught and observe how to respond to dissimilarities, this book is a reminder to continue growing with a nonjudgmental attitude.

“I think that as life hits, you have to respond and respond right away,” Davis says, believing children should know the truth of the world they live in, adding, “I also think it’s important to let children direct the narrative.”

“It is important for all of them [children] to see each other,” believing that lack of information is what creates fear, it is important to show diversity to promote unity, rather than exclusion, she goes on to say, “it’s about seeing every race.”

“This is just a conversation that really needs to be had about exposure and embracing diversity.”

Growing up, Davis dealt with being one of the few Black girls in her school and she understands the importance of inclusion and the isolation she felt during her years. Expressing her biggest hope is that children who read “One Big Heart” continue to search for common ground as they grow and experience the world.

“One Big Heart” will be available August 6, 2019 at bookstores and online for purchase. Follow Linsey Davis on Instagram @linseytdavis and Twitter @LinseyDavis for updates on her life and career.

This article originally appeared in The Los Angeles Sentinel.

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Organization uses art to teach developmentally disabled

WAVE NEWSPAPERS — Located on Pacific Coast Highway, one of the busiest highways in the Los Angeles County sits an inconspicuous three-story building. Looking at the front of the building, the perception is it’s a typical office space for some paper-pushing company. But, step inside the first floor and the camouflage of the building disappears to reveal what Able ARTS Work is all about. 

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Able ARTS Work (Image by: ableartswork.org)
Able ARTS Work (Image by: ableartswork.org)

By Bria Overs

LONG BEACH — Located on Pacific Coast Highway, one of the busiest highways in the Los Angeles County sits an inconspicuous three-story building. Looking at the front of the building, the perception is it’s a typical office space for some paper-pushing company. But, step inside the first floor and the camouflage of the building disappears to reveal what Able ARTS Work is all about.

Every morning, clients, one by one, are dropped off by buses and vans coming from their homes. To start the day on a good foot, they’re greeted by the big, bright smiles of the staff and a welcoming “good morning.”

Within one room, there are people with a variety of different disabilities with varying levels of ability. Some may have an autism spectrum disorder, cerebral palsy, intellectual or developmental disabilities, neurodegenerative disorders or other socio-emotional disorders. No matter their circumstance, they’re all ready for a day of activities.

“If you talk to our students here, they don’t view [being disabled] like a bad thing or a hindrance,” Art Instructor Ellen Bae said. “They think about it as something that’s just a part of them and they’re not ashamed to say it. They’re very aware they have a disability and they’re proud to be themselves, and I think that’s really important.”

Able ARTS Work started in 1982 in a Long Beach parks and recreation building with one music therapist, Helen Dolas, the founder, and was later joined by an art therapist and five students.

Dolas founded the program while completing her master’s degree in special education. From its humble beginnings, the organization’s services have grown and are now offered at four different locations in the Long Beach and South Bay areas.

To add to its uniqueness, each location provides different opportunities for their clients, but has overall become a safe space for the disabled with their philosophy of “love before learning.”

The Long Beach location, also known as the Achieving Results Together (ART) Center, operates on a six-month semester schedule and works a community center with each student signing up for a class or two, and then attending that class for a few weeks.

The icing on the cake is Able ARTS Works has its clients suggest classes. What they suggest, the teachers sometimes make.

“A lot of times we create them because we do something in a class and find that there’s a huge interest in it,” Katie Fohrman, program and community inclusion director, said.

“For example, we decided to do a marionette and [chose] to do a dog. So, I did the dog marionette with them and they named him Snoop, like Snoop Dogg,” Fohrman said with a laugh. “And it was so popular and they loved it so much and I found that it was so beneficial that I created an entire semester class on marionette and shadow puppet making.”

But their classes aren’t only about having fun and creating something to show people. Able ARTS Work is a program that has board-certified music and art therapists, like Fohrman, who is an associate professional clinical counselor for the program as well.

When clients are at Able ARTS Work they work on building skills and courage to do things out of their comfort zones.

Staff members like Bae and Fohrman love what they do. They’re passionate about the company’s mission and love helping their clients broaden their horizons every day.

It’s not just about art and music for them, it’s about how their clients can benefit from working with them in the long-run.

“I think they definitely gain a fellowship; they gain a partnership; and they also gain the confidence to chase their dreams and pursue what they really want to do,” Fohrman said. “A lot of our clients want to be professional artists and we provide that avenue for them. We provide that avenue for them to believe in themselves and follow their dreams.”

INFORMATION BOX

Organization: Able ARTS Work

Founder: Helen Dolas

Social Media: www.facebook.com/ableartswork

This article originally appeared in the Wave Newspapers

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