Mu­si­cians turn to HAAM when they end up in a jam

Austin American-Statesman - - OPINION - sch­warz is ex­ec­u­tive di­rec­tor health al­liance for austin Mu­si­cians, cschwarz@healthal­liance­foraustin­mu­si­cians.org. tay­lor is a part­ner at Jack­son Walker llP, ttay­lor@jw.com. For more in­for­ma­tion about haaM, go to www.healthal­liance­foraustin­mu­si­cians.org.

It’s a com­mon tale. Some­one comes up with a bril­liant idea for a project to help a seg­ment of the com­mu­nity, but can it be ex­e­cuted? The idea gets cir­cu­lated, talked about, her­alded. Lo­cal VIPs and city lead­ers get be­hind the idea, and things start hap­pen­ing slowly but surely. But can it work? And will it?

In this case, the some­one was pas­sion­ate Austin busi­ness­woman, phi­lan­thropist and live mu­sic lover Robin R. Shivers, and the bril­liant idea was Health Al­liance for Austin Mu­si­cians — a ground­break­ing or­ga­ni­za­tion to help the peo­ple who daily ex­em­plify what makes Austin the awe­some place it is (the Live Mu­sic Cap­i­tal of the World): low­in­come, unin­sured pro­fes­sional mu­si­cians who of­ten work mul­ti­ple jobs and strug­gle to pay for health care for them­selves and their fam­i­lies af­ter rent, food, util­i­ties and other ba­sic ex­penses.

And the idea has worked. Af­ter five years, more than 2,000 mem­ber-mu­si­cians have been served, gain­ing ac­cess to af­ford­able health care, with a fo­cus on well­ness and pre­ven­tion. They no longer have to “walk it off”; they no longer fear that a trip to the doc­tor will cost them their life sav­ings.

It is work­ing be­cause lo­cal health care providers rec­og­nized HAAM’s im­por­tance and got on­board (and con­tinue to do so): the SIMS Foun­da­tion, pro­vid­ing mental health and ad­dic­tion-re­cov­ery ser­vices; St. David’s Foun­da­tion, ba­sic den­tal care; the Se­ton Fam­ily of Hos­pi­tals, pri­mary med­i­cal care; and Estes Au­di­ol­ogy, hear­ing health ser­vices.

It is work­ing be­cause a board of di­rec­tors, made up of a di­verse group of peo­ple from the busi­ness and mu­sic worlds, has care­fully tended the foun­da­tion built by the vi­sion­ary and tire­less work of Shivers, who died sud­denly in 2009. She laid down a path, and it will be fol­lowed long into the fu­ture.

It is work­ing be­cause mem­bers of the com­mu­nity — bene­fac­tors, cor­po­ra­tions, in­di­vid­ual mu­sic lovers — have gen­er­ously given nearly $1.7 mil­lion to sup­port HAAM. One way they’ve done it is by shop­ping and eat­ing out on the an­nual HAAM Ben­e­fit Day (on Sept. 21 this year, a Tues­day), when busi­nesses pledge 5 per­cent of pro­ceeds, area res­i­dents do­nate, foun­da­tions make match­ing grants, and live mu­sic fills restau­rants, of­fices, green spa­ces, the air­port and Austin City Hall.

What will hap­pen in the im­me­di­ate fu­ture? Will cur­rent health care re­form leg­is­la­tion af­fect op­er­a­tions? HAAM is in a per­fect po­si­tion to help mem­ber-mu­si­cians nav­i­gate the new sys­tems and iden­tify and fill gaps that might ex­ist in them.

HAAM is an im­por­tant and trusted part of the Austin safety net, pro­vid­ing peace of mind along with ser­vices. But the need for health care is on­go­ing, and with con­tin­ued sup­port, HAAM can main­tain and ex­pand ser­vices to sup­port mu­si­cians who are such an im­por­tant part of Austin’s econ­omy and cul­ture.

Five years is an im­por­tant mile­stone for HAAM, and we want to give our thanks to the ser­vice providers, donors, sup­port­ers, mu­si­cians, the HAAMbas­sadors, area res­i­dents and all who have helped the or­ga­ni­za­tion thrive. To­gether, we are keep­ing mu­sic in Austin alive and well.

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