Al Dia: Hispanic Group Cuts Quit Smoking Campaign Because of Lack of Funds

Aunnalea Grove said Concilio will continue to connect those in need with cessation resources available elsewhere in the city.
Aunnalea Grove said Concilio will continue to connect those in need with tobacco cessation resources available elsewhere in the city.

Despite the need for tobacco cessation programs in Philadelphia, funding for Concilio’s program to support Latino individuals who want to quit smoking ended last week.

Concilio, the oldest Latino organization in the city at 705-09 N. Franklin St., provided individual and group sessions with face-to-face counseling in Spanish as well as one month of free nicotine replacement kits to help Latinos quit smoking. Last year, the program reached 122 individuals.

Denisse Rojas, the teacher of the sessions, helped smokers develop a comprehensive plan to quit smoking. This involved not only educating smokers of the risks and importance of a healthy lifestyle but also pinpointing daily routines and stressors that may trigger the habit. With the budget cuts to the program, her job as a smoking cessation specialist has disappeared.

“I’ve been in charge of the program for two years,” said Rojas, who began working at Concilio in a program that targeted tobacco cessation for youth specifically.

Aunnalea Grove, the youth and family development manager, oversaw the program and said the personal counseling was what made the program so effective.

Grove said: “Its a physical and a behavioral issue. We address both of those.”

She also said smoking is more than just an addiction and is often associated with daily habits such as smoking in the morning with a cup of coffee.

After the completion of each session Concilio followed up one month later to find that almost all clients had either quit smoking entirely or decreased the frequency of their tobacco use.

“The city was actually impressed with our success rates, but the funding just wasn’t there,” Grove said.

Grove cited multiple sources of funding for cessation programs, including the Master Settlement Agreement and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. She said as budgets are drawn, the money previously allotted for cessation programs is reallocated for the general budget.

However, the clear success of Concilio’s program was not enough to keep the program afloat.

“This is something that the community is going to continue to need,” Rojas said.

While both Rojas and Grove are disappointed that the program lost funding, they are more concerned about making sure the community is aware there are alternative resources.

Grove said, “Obviously we will still talk to the clients who have a relationship with Denisse.”

Though Concilio cannot provide cessation sessions anymore, the organization is determined to help those still in need. When clients call, they are referred to a tobacco cessation hotline, 800-QUIT-NOW, or other health care center classes provided to the English-speaking community.

The hotline does provide services in Spanish but Rojas said counseling over the phone is not the same and her clients agree. She said she hopes people will attend the programs that remain in health care centers but noted that language barriers are a big issue.

Even though Rojas has been reassigned a job at Concilio as youth health program coordinator, she said she is going to truly miss her time helping the Latino community quit smoking.

Rojas said, “I never thought it would be so rewarding to be in a position like this.”


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