Reenie Collins: She’s Keeping Musicians Healthy

April 3 - On The Dot

Ladies, does it ever seem to you that men are scared of women doing the things they do? For instance, take Lauren Mayberry, the frontwoman of Scottish band Chvrches. While she’s got an undergraduate law degree and a master’s degree in journalism, along with hundreds of thousands of fans, she’s also the recipient of plenty of odious and violent threats. And we all know how difficult it can be to shut out such hatred. I mean, I still remember the slightly hurtful comment a boy made to me in fifth grade! So, today, I applaud all women who brush off the haters and brilliantly triumph over derision and animosity.


Another big-time issue most musicians have to deal with is figuring out how to get access to health care. Being a musician can do serious destruction to your mental health. And whether you’re in search of a therapist to help with mental-health issues or simply just want a regular checkup, if you’re a musician, figuring out how to navigate the ever-challenging world of health insurance—or paying out of pocket for a doctor visit—can certainly be difficult. According to a recent survey from the Future of Music Coalition, 43 percent of musicians in the United States don’t have health insurance. And unsurprisingly, about 88 percent who do lack health insurance say it’s because they simply can’t afford it.

WOMAN TO WATCH: Reenie Collins, Executive Director of the Health Alliance for Austin Musicians

Today’s Woman to Watch, Reenie Collins, knows all too well the struggles uninsured musicians face regularly. She’s the lauded executive director of the Health Alliance for Austin Musicians in Austin, Texas. Known as the Live Music Capital of the World, Austin is home to thousands of musicians. But it’s also long been a place where musicians struggle to get the health assistance they need. That’s where Reenie and the organization commonly known as HAAM step in to help keep music in Austin alive and well.

Austin’s musicians kick some serious booty in their musical endeavors, yet the bulk of them are self-employed and earn less than $18,000 annually in a town where the average monthly rent for a studio apartment is more than $1,000. That means, for many musicians, basic health care is simply a dream, not a real option. HAAM got started in 2005 with the goal of providing a real solution to this problem. The nonprofit offers access to affordable health care for low-income working musicians. With a focus on prevention and wellness, HAAM helps musicians get care for everything from mental-health issues to physical ailments like hearing loss and heart problems.

In 2016 alone, HAAM services provided $1.7 million in inpatient care, along with dental visits for 785 musicians and nearly 1,000 outpatient clinic visits. One particularly touching HAAM success story is that of DJ Shani. She was denied disability and health-care coverage through usual channels after being diagnosed with multiple sclerosis. Now, thanks to HAAM, she has regular access to her primary-care physician and a counselor, and later, when she was diagnosed with thyroid cancer, HAAM ensured she was able to get the surgery she required.

An expert in health-care administration, Reenie has spent a quarter of a century working in the health-care and nonprofit industries, expertise she doggedly applies to her frontwoman duties at HAAM. This devoted firecracker is passionate about the creative class that makes Austin the weird and wonderful place it is, and is sure to keep working zealously to keep the city’s musicians healthy. And that’s definitely music to our ears!


Let’s conclude today’s story of inspiration with a quote from Reenie Collins herself:

“Women should remember that it's OK to be persistent and tenacious. If you are tasked with a goal and hit a wall, keep trying.”

This is Melinda Garvey signing off until next time. Remember, ladies, empowered women empower other women. Share On the Dot so more women can have a voice. Thanks for getting ready with us.

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