Kansas City Mayor’s Office Opens Investigation into Use of Ryan White Funds
After federal officials in March sent a "scathing" letter to Kansas City Mayor Kay Barnes alleging that the city Health Department had failed to spend funding earmarked for AIDS drugs and minority health care, the mayor's office is investigating how the federal funds are being spent, the Kansas City Star reports. At issue is $3.3 million in federal funds the region received through the Ryan White CARE Act. The city Health Department is responsible for administering the funding over an 11-county area bridging Missouri and Kansas. On the local level, the funds are dispersed by the Ryan White Planning Council, a group of AIDS patients, city officials and representatives from AIDS service organizations, all appointed by the mayor. The Star reports that the council had planned to send federal officials a letter detailing the spending priorities for this year's grant, but Council Chair Marva Miller refused to sign it. Instead, Miller drafted her own letter alleging that funding, including $34,500 intended for minority AIDS services, was left unspent during the last fiscal year. The city Health Department refused to send the letter, saying it was "inaccurate" and had not been endorsed by the council. In addition, the department said that "bureaucratic delays" prevented the funding from being spent and that the remaining funds would be spent this year, if the federal government approved. Meanwhile, the mayor's office is organizing a 10-member "work group" to review management of the funds and make recommendations to on "how to improve" their disbursement. Their conclusions are expected in August (Bavley/McGuire, Kansas City Star, 6/5).
'Fix' the Problem, Star Says
Noting that Kansas City "historically" has had a "well coordinated and cooperative effort" to care for AIDS patients, a Star editorial states that the "highest priority" during the mayor's investigation "must be the welfare of people who need the help." The editorial says that an investigation should strive to determine the problems with distributing the funds and "fix" the situation. Stating that while the mayor's office may be "the right place to start" the investigation, the editorial says that an independent source "may be useful" to implement any required solutions. The editorial concludes, "If these recent complaints indicate that something fundamental is amiss in the area's effort to help people with AIDS, those problems must be solved quickly. But whether there are real troubles or merely complaints, the current inquiry should be expeditious and should keep the welfare of people being helped as the highest goal" (Kansas City Star, 6/5).