RAI Advocates for HRC – HEI in the Capital Region – Mission Accomplished!

Saratoga Hospital welcoming to those of all orientations

Facility rates well, seeks to move ‘from good to great’

Sunday, August 11, 2013

By Sara Foss
Gazette Reporter

SARATOGA SPRINGS — The changes are simple yet significant.

There are more unisex bathrooms. The visitation policy has been tweaked to make it clear that visitation privileges will not be denied based on gender identity. On the hospital’s admission sheet, patients can now list their preferred name in addition to their legal name.

For Saratoga Hospital, these steps have paid off. In July, the hospital was recognized as a leader in LGBT health care equality by the Human Rights Campaign, a Washington-based organization that advocates for the rights of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people.

The HRC puts out an annual Healthcare Equality Index listing medical facilities throughout the country that provide sensitive, welcoming and accessible care to the LGBT community.

For inclusion on the list, health care providers must meet criteria in four key areas:

• patient non-discrimination policies

• visitation policies

• employment non-discrimination policies

• training in LGBT patient-centered care

Mary Jo LaPosta, senior vice president of patient care and organizational excellence at Saratoga Hospital, said the hospital’s effort to improve services for LGBT patients aligns with its long-standing mission and values.

“We want to serve the people of the region by providing health care in a supportive and caring environment,” she said. “The LGBT community represents one area of diversity in the community.”

The catalyst for Saratoga Hospital’s focus on LGBT health care concerns was Schenectady resident Chad Putman. Putman serves as vice president of the board of directors for the Rainbow Access Initiative, a local nonprofit organization that seeks to educate health care providers about LGBT health issues. In 2010, he approached Saratoga Hospital to see whether the institution would be interested in taking the steps necessary to be listed as a leader in LGBT health care by the HRC.

“We felt his desire to speak to us was very, very, important,” LaPosta said.

After meeting with Putman, Saratoga Hospital established a steering committee focused on LGBT health care. The hospital performed a self-assessment, using HRC guidelines, to determine which areas might need improvement. The hospital then began to address these areas, adding language about gender identity to policies for staff and patients, changing the admission form and adding unisex bathrooms.

Putman said it’s important for medical providers to give patients the opportunity to disclose their sexual orientation and gender identity. Another key to ensuring LGBT patients receive adequate health care is training medical staff to address their needs. He said transgender people often encounter problems at the front desk, because staff might not recognize or acknowledge their gender identity.

On the Rainbow Access Initiative’s website, members of the LGBT community share their experiences with the health care system. One of the people featured is Evan, a 58-year-old southern Washington County resident who requested his last name be withheld. Evan is a female-to-male transsexual; he was born a woman, but has identified as a man since 1996.

“Generally, my experience with the health care world has been pretty good,” Evan said, “but there have been times when it has been awkward.”

Evan said he lacks the funds to undergo gender reassignment surgery and requires the medical care middle-aged women typically receive, such as mammograms.

“I still have to make sure I don’t have cervical cancer,” he explained.

In general, doctors have been sensitive to his needs, Evan said, “but the staff might not be. They might call me she or her, even if I ask them not to.”

On one occasion, an administrator at a local hospital referred to him as a young lady, which Evan found problematic for two reasons: The administrative was younger than him, and “that’s not how I present myself and not how I see myself.” He said he told the administrator she was being insensitive, and if she had referred to him as a patient or a person, he wouldn’t have objected.

“She was very apologetic,” he recalled. “I try to correct people when I feel it’s appropriate.”

Albany Medical Center has also been recognized for its commitment to LGBT patients. Like Saratoga Hospital, the hospital was named a leader in LGBT health care equality in the Human Rights Campaign’s 2013 list.

“This recognition confirms Albany Med’s commitment to treating all of our patients with the dignity and respect they deserve,” Steven Frisch, executive vice president of Albany Medical Center, said at the time.

Saratoga Hospital and Albany Medical Center were among 23 hospitals in New York listed in the HRC’s health care equality index for 2013. Also listed was Albany’s Stratton VA Medical Center.

According to the HRC, a growing number of health care facilities are seeking inclusion on the group’s annual report. This year, 718 facilities are listed, a 153 percent increase from 2012.

“The Human Rights Campaign Foundation developed the Healthcare Equality Index to meet a deep and urgent need on the part of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender Americans: the need for equitable, knowledgeable, sensitive and welcoming health care, free from discrimination based on LGBT status,” the HRC explains in its report. “No one, when concerned about their health, should also be concerned about receiving inequitable or otherwise substandard care. Yet it is clear that many LGBT Americans have exactly these concerns when seeking health care.”

For Saratoga Hospital, the effort to improve services to the LGBT community is ongoing. A subcommittee comprising hospital staff, from doctors and nurses to administrative assistants, meets regularly, and the hospital recently established a partnership with the Pride Center of the Capital Region.

Curran Streett, executive director of the Pride Center, said her organization will provide training for the entire Saratoga Hospital staff. This training will take place in 2014, she said.

“One of the bigger challenges our community faces is finding adequate health care,” Streett said. “One issue is access to health insurance. Another is that providers do not receive training [in LGBT health care issues].”

Some LGBT people simply opt out of health care because they fear discrimination, she said.

Streett praised Saratoga Hospital’s decision to provide training for everyone on staff. She said health care providers seldom make such training mandatory, and as a result, they are often attended only by people already interested and knowledgeable about the topic.

LaPosta said Saratoga Hospital is continuing to work on improving care for LGBT patients. A subcommittee open to hospital staff, as well as members of the community, meets regularly to discuss LGBT-related issues.

“We have the opportunity to move from good to great,” LaPosta said. The HRC designation “is not the end of the story. … We are committed to consistent improvement. We want to hear from the LGBT community about what they want.”


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2013 Leaders in LGBT Healthcare Report Released!!

Rainbow Access Initiative Congratulates…Saratoga Hospital for achieving LGBT Healthcare Leadership status in the 2013 HRC – Healthcare Equality Index Report…

Three years ago Rainbow Access Initiative made a decision to reach out to area hospitals in the Capital Region to increase participation in the Human Rights Campaign – Healthcare Equality Index.

The Human Rights Campaign – Healthcare Equality Index is a nationally recognized tool which has established bench marks toward LGBT healthcare equality.

Each and every year we have continued to follow up with area medical centers to remind them LGBT healthcare equity is important to our mission.  Our calls did not go unnoticed.  As such, we have had the opportunity to work closely with Saratoga Hospital over the last  three years on their commitment to participate in the HEI.

Today, we are happy to report Saratoga Hospital has secured LGBT Healthcare Leadership status in the 2013 HRC – HEI Report.  Below is a press release from Saratoga Hospital.

Congratulations Saratoga Hospital on a job well done!!

SARATOGA SPRINGS, NY, July 11, 2013 – Saratoga Hospital has been recognized as a “Leader in LGBT Healthcare Equality” in the Healthcare Equality Index 2013. The hospital is one of just 23 healthcare organizations in New York State to earn this distinction for demonstrating a commitment to equitable, inclusive care for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgendered patients and their families.

Now in its sixth year, the HEI is an annual survey administered by the Human Rights Campaign, the largest civil rights organization working to achieve equal rights for LGBT Americans. HRC released the survey results today during a news conference at the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs in Washington, D.C.

Nationwide, only 464 healthcare organizations earned the perfect score required to be named a Leader in LGBT Healthcare Equality. Organizations were evaluated on the following criteria: non-discrimination policies for LGBT patients and employees, a guarantee of equal visitation for same-sex partners and parents, and LGBT health education for key staff members.

“This leadership designation affirms our commitment to meet the needs of all patients,” said Angelo Calbone, Saratoga Hospital president and CEO. “It sends a clear message to members of the LGBT community that, at every Saratoga Hospital facility, they can count on us for the care, respect and compassion that all patients deserve, regardless of sexual orientation.”

Mary Jo LaPosta, PhD, RN, senior vice president, patient care and organizational excellence, led the effort to earn the HRC designation, including the review of Saratoga Hospital policies and practices. The review determined that the hospital already had equitable policies in place for LGBT employees, patients and their families.

“This application process provided Saratoga Hospital with an opportunity for self-reflection. The process assisted us in identifying opportunities to enhance our services to the LGBT community,” LaPosta said. “We recognize that LGBT patients still face barriers to equal access to quality healthcare and we are determined to do everything possible to remove those barriers now and in the future.”

Shane Snowdon, HRC Health & Aging director, congratulated and commended Saratoga Hospital and other organizations that earned a place on the HEI 2013. “LGBT patients deeply appreciate the welcoming environment provided by a Leader in LGBT Healthcare Equality,” she said. “It makes a big difference to know that your local healthcare facility is fully committed to giving you the same care it gives your neighbors and co-workers.”

For more information about the Healthcare Equality Index 2013, or to download a free copy of the report, visit www.hrc.org/hei.


Rainbow Access Initiative, Inc. (RAI) is a 501 c/3, organized exclusively for charitable and educational purposes to increase the accessibility of health and human services to the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer community and their families in the Capital District of NYS.

On behalf of the RAI board of Directors and volunteers, Thank you!

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LGBT data collection training on demand…

Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual & Transgender Data Collection in Clinical Settings, available On-Demand @


(visit site and look under useful links – watch on demand)

Presenter: Harvey Makadon, MD
Director, National LGBT Health Education Center at the Fenway Institute

This presentation will highlight the rationale for and how to collect sexual orientation and gender identity data in clinical settings. Current data collection practices in most clinical settings do not include questions about sexual orientation or gender identity. The call for LGBT data collection in clinical settings is coming from national stakeholders including the Department of Health & Human Service and the Joint Commission, and has been highlighted in a report released by The Institute of Medicine in 2011 entitled, The Health of Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender People: Building a Foundation for Better Understanding.

Continuing Education Credits

The School of Public Health, University at Albany is an approved provider of continuing nurse education by the Massachusetts Association of Registered Nurses, Inc., an accredited approver by the American Nurse Credentialing Center’s Commission on Accreditation.

This activity provides 1.5 hours of nurse continuing education.

School of Public Health, University at Albany is accredited by the MSSNY to provide continuing medical education (CME) for physicians. The School designates this educational activity for a maximum of 1.5 AMA PRA Category 1 Credit(s).™ Physicians should claim only credit commensurate with the extent of their participation in the activity.

This activity is sponsored by the School of Public Health, University at Albany, SUNY, a designated provider of continuing education contact hours (CECH) in health education by the National Commission for Health Education Credentialing, Inc. This program is designated for the CHES to receive 1.5 Category 1 CECH in health education.

Continuing education credits will be available until March 2016.

The planners and presenters do not have any financial arrangements or affiliations with any commercial entities whose products, research or services may be discussed in this activity.

No commercial funding has been accepted for this activity.

This event is brought to you by the following sponsors:

Empire State PHTC logo

chcanys logo

network logo

rai logo

csp logo


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LGBT Health Month in Action!

Rainbow Access Initiative in the News!

NYS LGBT Health Month is off to a great start…

On Tuesday, February 26 NYS LGBT Health & Human Service Network members and our allies gathered at the NYS Capital in Albany to kick of LGBT Health Month.

This years theme is “We Count. Count Us.” Our purpose is to remind health care and human service providers across the state to include “sexual orientation” and “gender identity & expression” into their data collection material, intake forms and assessments.

NYS Senator Neil Breslin presented a Resolution of Support for LGBT Health Month and there was also an Assembly Resolution of Support from the office of Assemblymember Patricia Fahy.

Check out these links for news coverage and video from the event.

Times Union – Feb 27, 2013

Capital Confidential Blog



Its not to late to register for this important presentation and webinar!

On March 5 at 2pm, Dr. Harvey Makadon from the National LGBT Education Center, out of Boston, will be on hand in the Capital District to present on LGBT Data Collection in Clinical Settings.  This presentation will be available via webcast or in-person at the Rensselaer SUNY Albany – School of Public Health Campus.  For more information and to register for this presentation (or webcast) which will highlight the need for and how to collection LGBT data in clincial settings please visit this link “We Count. Count Us.”

Help us do what we do…

In closing, RAI reminds you these are difficult financial times for many non-profits and LGBT-specific organizations are no exception.  In short, RAI is asking for 31 individuals to donate $31 to help us sustain our basic operating costs over the next 6-12 months.  Currently, RAI is awaiting word on a NYS DOH grant through the AIDS Institute as part of a competative grant RAI applied for in October, 2012.  To dontate, checks can be mailed to RAI, Inc. P.O. Box 9144, Niskayuna, NY 12309 or online at http://fundly.com/31-give-31 .

Rainbow Access Initiative, Inc. (RAI) is a 501 c/3, organized exclusively for charitable and educational purposes to increase the accessibility of health and human services to the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer community and their families in the Capital District of NYS.

On behalf of the RAI board of Directors and volunteers, Thank you!

Chad Putman, RAI Board VP speaks at the LGBT Health Month Press Conference.

Chad Putman, RAI Board VP speaks at the LGBT Health Month Press Conference.

Like Us!

Rainbow Access Initiative on Facebook


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RAI in 2012 – A year in Review…

Dear Community Member,

In 2012, Rainbow Access Initiative (RAI) continued to thrive because of the dedication of the Board of Directors and volunteers.  Oftentimes, when folks learn about RAI and find out we are a small grass-root Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, & Transgender non-profit with no paid staff they are often surprised at how much we can accomplish with such limited resources, and this year was no exception.


If this is your first exposure to RAI, it is important to know we are the only LGBT–specific organization serving the capital district of New York State (Albany, Rensselaer, Saratoga & Schenectady Counties) focused solely on the development of LGBT inclusive & specific health care and human services.  Our mission is to ensure the LGBT community in the capital district has access to culturally competent and compassionate health care and human services.

We work to achieve this mission through a two-tier approach: one focused on reaching out and engaging with health care and human service providers and organizations, the other to engage and empower LGBT individuals, their families and the community at large.


January – The Board of Directors and a cast of volunteers chose to kick the year off with a bang, and we hosted our first ever Beach Party.  Oftentimes, the winter months just following the holiday excitement can be cold, dark and difficult.  So, we decided to face Mother Nature with a hot and comical beach party hosted by Rocks in downtown Albany.  The event featured drag performances, local comics and giveaways including a three night stay at the Cherry Grove Beach hotel on Fire Island, NY.  The generosity of the attendees and the community at large made this our first successful fundraiser of the year.

February – Some of you may know Rainbow Access Initiative is a member of the NYS LGBT Health & Human Service Network which is a program of the Empire State Pride Agenda.  The RAI Board of Directors takes this membership very seriously and as such, Board President Chad Putman is an active member of the Network Health Committee.  This committee is responsible for the development of LGBT Health Month in NYS which is an annual initiative that occurs in March.  Twenty-Twelve marked our second annual initiative and that kicked off in late February with great fan-fair at the NYS Capital thanks to the organization of our Board President.  This year featured a press conference, news coverage, Senate & Assembly Resolutions of Support, and remarks by NYS Senator Neil Breslin and the National Coalition for LGBT Health’s Executive Director, Hutson Inniss.

March – The RAI Board of Directors and volunteers worked hard over a six month period of time to put together our first ever Art of Health event.  This was a full day extravaganza which took place in early March at the Schenectady Light Opera Company in Schenectady, NY.  The event featured our 2nd annual LGBTQ Health & Wellness Expo complete with breakout sessions focused on topics like alternative therapies, drawing and creative arts, the art of drag, educational theater and poetry.  The daytime event featured lunch with special guest and author, Marc Renson, an openly gay entrepreneur and owner of Ambitions Café on Jay St.

The Art of Health evening event was a step beyond your average awards dinner and featured a live variety show with comedy, dance, theatrical performances, along with several melodies by the Albany Gay Men’s Chorus.  Intermixed with the performances and live auction the RAI Board of Directors awarded local talent for making a splash in the performance arts in a way that has benefited the health and wellness of the LGBT community here in the capital district.

RAI Access Award recipients were as follows: Albany High School Theatre Ensemble for the Laramie Project (Ward Dales – Theatre Arts Instructor & Fiona Thompson), Proctors for QFEST which is an annual LGBT film festival held at the GE theater in Proctors and is organized by Joey Hunziker, and lastly to our favorite drag queens, Carmie Hope (Steven Homes) – Frieda Munchon (David Bagnardi) & Whiskey Sour (Kevin Bruce) for their dedication to LGBT health through performance and volunteerism.

RAI paid special recognition to the cast and crew of Homo Radio (WRPI/91.5 FM) with the Bobbi Williams Access Award.  This pioneering show which focuses on the LGBT community recently celebrated 20 years on the air in February, 2012.  At the time of the award, the Homo Radio cast and crew included Co-Producers Sean McLaughlin and Dr. Ray H. Werking Jr., Ryan Smith – Community Calendar Editor, Tim Ruppert – Program Assistant, Joe Galu – News Writer, and Co-Hosts Ulysses de Armes, Dave Leybig, and Kathy Breda.

The Trevor Project – Thanks to a multi-year agreement with The Trevor Project, RAI and Trevor volunteers were delighted to bring the lifesaving resources of the Trevor Project to the youth of the First Unitarian Society of Schenectady in late March.  The Lifeguard Workshops, developed to prevent suicide among LGBTQ youth, were offered to junior and senior high school students and were followed by a panel discussion on LGBT bullying for the full congregation.

April – Spring is often a time when RAI and Trevor volunteers are able to facilitate a number of Lifeguard Workshops in area schools, and this year was no exception.  We were delighted to be welcomed back to Mohonasen High School for their annual Day of Silence event and to facilitate a series of Lifeguard workshops for over 100 youth.  This year also featured a special performance by Josh Rivadel (playwright, songwriter and actor) of “The Gospel According to Josh”.  A one-man show featuring multiple characters and songs, this play chronicles Josh’s battle with depression and suicide after losing his grandfather and father to suicide.

April was rounded out with an article in the Schenectady Gazette which featured RAI’s “My (LGBTQ) Healthcare Story Matters” project.  The article focused on a local Transgender community member and her struggle accessing competent and compassionate health care and human services in the capital district.  This project was launched over a year ago and features videos and stories in print about the experiences of LGBT people engaging with health and human service providers in our area (www.RAI-Health.org)

June – Pride month.  RAI Board members and volunteers always make it a point to participate in this annual celebration of the LGBT civil rights movement.  This year, RAI tabled at Capital Pride in Albany and also marched in the annual gay pride parade featuring our work with the Trevor Project and the Human Rights Campaign – Healthcare Equality Index.  In fact, we closed out June with our 2nd annual Motorcycle Ride for LGBT Healthcare Equality with nearly a dozen riders and stops at Ellis Medicine, Albany Medical Center and Saratoga Hospital.  This year’s ride was extra special when we were greeted by over 25 employees at Saratoga Hospital which was an incredible experience for all.

September – RAI Board member, Katie Moskal and Board President, Chad Putman participated in the annual Schenectady County Triathlon to promote LGBT health care in the capital district.  Katie and Chad both finished their first ever “triathlon” which featured a seven mile bike ride, three mile run and two laps around a small lake in Scotia in a kayak.  The event raised some funds for RAI but also helped RAI to reach the larger community regarding our work.

October – Aside from gearing up for the release of the 2013 Healthcare Equality Index survey, RAI hosted a special performance of the “Fabulous Darshan” at the Schenectady Light Opera Company which featured the playwright and NYC cast for a live reading.  The event was a success thanks to the promotional help from our friends at Homo Radio with weekly announcements and an appearance by RAI Board President, Chad Putman.

November – Featured the release of the Human Rights Campaign – Healthcare Equality Index (HEI) 2013 survey which is a nationally recognized tool utilized by RAI to promote best practices in LGBT patient care.  RAI is committed to securing participation in the HEI 2013 by one or more of the major medical centers in the capital district.  Currently, of the 400 medical centers that participate in the HEI across the nation (15 of which in New York State), none serve the capital district.

November was also a month RAI Board President, Chad Putman was able to participate in the annual meeting of the National Coalition for LGBT Health for which RAI has been a long standing member.  This year, Mr. Putman was part of a panel focused on LGBT Health & Wellness and explored the impact of the Affordable Care Act (ACA), also known as ObamaCare, on LGBT individuals and families across the country and right here in New York State.  This panel and related discussions at the annual meeting led to the development of a committee focused on LGBT community engagement and empowerment as the ACA roles out toward full implementation in 2014.  Mr. Putman has taken an active role on this committee and is optimistic the ACA will play a crucial role to address health disparities experienced by the LGBT community through health insurance enrollment and anti-discrimination provisions found in the ACA.

December – A month for reflection and looking ahead…

Twenty-Twelve has truly been a banner year for RAI with many of the highlights noted above.  Many of the events noted have been made possible by funding received through RAI’s participation in the NYS LGBT Health & Human Service Network, more specifically Senate funding which was allocated to RAI back in 2011.  Unfortunately, this funding is all but dried up and has left RAI completely dependent of fundraised dollars.  However, RAI is hopeful that an application for state funding will come through in 2013 in the form of a 5 year grant specifically set aside in the Governor’s 2012 budget to develop LGBT health care and human services in NYS.  Either way, the mission and work of RAI will continue on because this work is too important to walk away from at this crucial time.

The Board of Directors – Rainbow Access Initiative is as strong, vibrant and engaged as those who run it.  The community at large and RAI has benefited from the dedication of Board members like Kiera Griffiths (Finance Committee Co-Chair) and Katie Moskal (former Vice President).  These two individuals have served the board and the organization for a number of years and will be deeply missed as they move on to a new and exciting chapter.  RAI is grateful to have the ongoing support of Board Members Andy Little and Jenna Zirbel who have remained dedicated even after a big move to North Carolina in 2012.  RAI hopes to have Steve Hendrickson back in 2013 after a personal leave of absence.  RAI is also grateful and would like to welcome new members Jonny Puglia (Trevor volunteer extraordinaire) and James Taft who joined the Board of Directors in November.

RAI is always looking for new talent and passion in the form of board members and volunteers.  If you would like to become involved with Rainbow Access Initiative or would like to learn more about our work, please visit www.RainbowAccess.org, “like” us on Facebook at “Rainbow Access Initiative” and contact Board President, Chad Putman at 518-225-0957 or by emailing ChadPutman@RainbowAccess.org

RAI is a 501 c/3 and donations are always appreciated and can be mailed to RAI, P.O. Box 9144, Niskayuna, NY 12309.

-Thank You!

With warm regards,

Chad Putman, LMSW

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RAI in Washington D.C.

Rainbow Access Initiative at

the National Coalition for LGBT Health’s

annual meeting in Washington, D.C.

November 12 & 13, 2012

RAI Board President, Chad Putman is in attendance and participating in the National Coalition for LGBT Health’s annual meeting taking place in Washington D.C. on November 12 & 13.  This years meeting is focused on “Moving Toward LGBT Health Equity – Transforming Lives, Transforming Communities”.

This gathering will bring together LGBT healthcare advocates from across the country to attend workshops and trainings applicable to state and federal advocacy work, and learn about the Coalition’s policy initiatives.

As such, Mr. Putman will be presenting as part of an LGBT Health & Wellness Affinity group on Monday. This workgroup will explore the implications of the ACA on LGBT Americans and how to ensure rollout is inclusive of LGBT individuals and families on the state and local level.
Now that America has voted to grant President Obama another four years in the White House we now know the Affordable Care Act (Obamacare) is here to stay.  This is a big win for LGBT healthcare including increased access to health insurance, the start of LGBT data collection in clinical settings, and measures to protect transgender individuals seeking health care.

For more on the ACA and LGBT health visit the National Coalition for LGBT Health.

To view the presentation by Mr. Putman as part of the Health & Wellness Affinity group see powerpoint here.

To learn more about Rainbow Access Initiative and follow our work please visit www.RainbowAccess.org and Facebook at Rainbow Access Initiative.

Thank you, Chad Putman, RAI – Board President

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Fabulous Darshan, October 27 @ SLOC

Be Fabulous and get your tickets to be on the Honorary Committee for this Fabulous event today!

You can purchase either 10 tickets for $10 each (total- $100) or 2 tickets for $25 each (total $50) to benefit Rainbow Access Initiative and the Schenectady Light Opera Company.

Email chadputman@rainbowaccess.org or call 518-225-0957 to get yours by Saturday, October 6.

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