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Robert Espinoza Joins PHI as Vice President of Policy

February 27, 2015

In February, PHI was delighted to welcome Robert Espinoza as its new Vice President of Policy. In this role, Robert will lead the PHI Policy team, helping to develop and execute a national strategy for advocacy, research, and policy analysis in support of PHI’s “Quality Care through Quality Jobs” mission.

Robert has focused on economic and social issues throughout his career, most notably by working on lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) issues; racial and economic justice; and workers’ rights, among others. In a recent interview, he said that in recent years he has seen an increased interest in aging and long-term services and supports as a policy issue of concern, though the conversation often leaves out populations that are more marginalized and underrepresented, including LGBT people.

For the last five years, Robert was the Senior Director for Public Policy and Communications at SAGE, the country’s premiere organization focused on improving the lives of LGBT older people. The aging process tends to make people more vulnerable — to isolation, economic insecurity, illness, and abuse, to name a few — and LGBT older people are a particularly vulnerable population, Robert explained. They are more likely to be single and without children than heterosexual people, and therefore lack the crucial support system that other elders take for granted. Add to that the discrimination they have faced over the decades as LGBT people, and “the isolation they experience has health and financial consequences in terms of economic insecurity,” Robert said.

While at SAGE, Robert helped the organization achieve a slew of victories for LGBT older people. SAGE issued numerous seminal reports containing comprehensive data on LGBT elders, an area of research that had previously been virtually ignored. “Five years ago if you Googled ‘LGBT elder,’ virtually nothing would come up,” he said, adding that he was proud of being able to “place LGBT aging as a relevant topic in the policy and public realms.”

At PHI, Robert says he wants to change how people see the direct-care workforce. Achieving that will take work, he said, though it builds on the impressive efforts already made by national advocates such as PHI and others. 

One way to advance a policy agenda for direct-care workers is to “build the progress [PHI has] already made in terms of tracking data, and offering policy solutions based on that data.” He also cites the need for increased partnerships with like-minded organizations as a goal. “We need to activate and animate people who are advocates for this issue, and to persuade the broader public that this workforce is important,” he said. 

Ultimately, Robert said, he wants PHI to “pinpoint solutions to improving the jobs of the millions of current — and future — direct-care workers.”

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