Federal Judge Orders New York City to Improve Services For Residents With HIV/AIDS
Federal District Judge Sterling Johnson this week ordered New York City's Division of AIDS Services and Income Support to improve its rendering of services -- including housing subsidies, Medicaid, emergency housing allotments and other benefits -- for people with HIV/AIDS, the New York Times reports. In September 2000, Johnson ruled that the city agency "routinely subjected" the 27,000 people who use its services to "chronically and systematically" late benefits, sometimes terminating benefits without notice. Both judgments stem from a 1995 class action lawsuit filed by the AIDS advocacy group Housing Works. To assist with the timely provision of benefits, Johnson ordered that the agency issue dated receipts when a benefits request is made. The receipts are especially important for HIV/AIDS patients who may suffer from AIDS dementia, Armen Merjian, a staff lawyer for Housing Works, said, adding that the receipts will "serve as tangible proof that the city can't just evade by saying it has no record of an application, which is part of the bureaucratic hell they have long subjected our clients to." The ruling also requires the city to appoint a "troubleshooter" to work out problems reported by beneficiaries. The troubleshooter, who will serve a three-year term, will report to Magistrate Judge Cheryl Pollak, the judge appointed last year to monitor the Division of AIDS Services and Income Support. Merjian said that the decision was "necessary to guarantee that this population be assured meaningful access to critical benefits and services," but added that he expected the city to appeal the ruling (Christian, New York Times, 12/19).This is part of the KHN Morning Briefing, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.