Sapphire Awards Selects Two Northwest Florida Finalists

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Florida Blue Foundation’s Community Health Symposium and Sapphire Awards Selects Two Northwest Florida Finalists

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – The Florida Blue Foundation will present the 2017 Community Health Symposium and Sapphire Awards, Creating a Culture of Health, April 19-20 at the Gaylord Palms Resort and Convention Center in Kissimmee, Fla. The annual two-day event features sessions, roundtable discussions, professional development and networking for more than 400 executives from health care, government, higher education and nonprofit organizations. Presenters and speakers include national, regional and Florida-based experts on a variety of issues affecting communities as it relates to health and health care policy.


At the conclusion of the event, the Foundation will award $365,000 in grants to 15 finalists from across Florida at the Sapphire Awards as a way to recognize excellence and innovation in community health. Winners will be announced by Florida Blue CEO Pat Geraghty on April 20 during the luncheon ceremony. Among the finalists is a long-time director of an Okaloosa HIV/AIDS program along with a Northwest Florida organization that serves the HIV/AIDS population in the six-county area surrounding Bay County.

Butch McKay’s leadership as executive director of Okaloosa AIDS Support and Informational Services (OASIS) has provided effective, high-quality and compassionate care to people living with, affected by, or at-risk for HIV/AIDS since 1996. The sustainability of the organization is directly attributable to his leadership. Under his direction, OASIS has had a large impact on a rural area with limited health care resources, especially for underserved populations such as racial, ethnic and sexual minorities disproportionately impacted by the HIV/AIDS epidemic. OASIS is the only remaining comprehensive AIDS service organization in the four-county region of Okaloosa, Escambia, Santa Rosa and Walton. One of the most powerful accomplishments of the organization while under McKay’s direction is the 83 percent viral suppression rate of OASIS clients compared to the national rate of 68 percent of those under care, greatly improving the health of the community. Other distinctions include McKay’s achievements with innovative programs reaching thousands of people such as the annual Positive Living Conference for nearly two decades and the Activate! U Advocacy Academy.


The second Northwest Florida finalist is the organization BASIC NWFL. With the guiding philosophy of “compassion without judgment,” BASIC has successfully implemented numerous HIV/AIDS care, treatment and prevention programs since 1989, particularly to members of the African American community. BASIC serves all residents of the six-county region around Bay County. It directly works to stop the further spread of HIV by addressing the prevention needs of infected people, linking HIV-infected people to care and treatment, and distributing condoms. Its PrEP UP program has developed a network of primary care physicians who have been trained on PrEP (Pre-Exposure Prophylaxis), actively identified persons at high risk of acquiring HIV for PrEP, and reduced or overcome barriers to access and increased adherence to care by providing intensive case management to persons who take PrEP. Additionally, BASIC has stepped forward to address issues that many times the community is hesitant to talk about, specifically HIV and drug use. It has been outspoken regarding the need for education in schools to talk about these issues, and the need for the community at large to be concerned about this population.


Those interested in attending the Community Health Symposium and Sapphire Awards may register at


About Florida Blue Foundation

Florida Blue Foundation is a trade name of Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Florida Foundation, Inc. Florida Blue Foundation is a separate, philanthropic affiliate of Florida Blue, Florida’s Blue Cross and Blue Shield company. The Foundation and its parent are independent licensees of the Blue Cross and Blue Shield Association, an association of independent Blue Cross and Blue Shield companies. For more information about the Foundation, please visit