Norfolk, Va., City Officials Plan To Turn Over Management of Ryan White Funds to Not-for-Profit Group
The city of Norfolk, Va., plans to turn over the management of its federal Ryan White CARE Act funds for HIV/AIDS care and treatment to the Planning Council, a private, not-for-profit human services provider, city officials said on Thursday, the Virginian-Pilot reports. The city began searching for an outside agency to administer the Title I funds this spring after "years of complaints," according to the Virginian-Pilot (Szabo, Virginian-Pilot, 10/10). A contract dispute between Norfolk officials and clinic doctors regarding billing practices resulted in the revocation of the clinics' Ryan White funds on April 11. EVMS clinics used a billing method in which doctors receive a set fee for each patient, a practice that is reportedly not allowed under federal government regulations. As a result, the clinics, which are the primary source of HIV/AIDS care for 1,200 of the area's uninsured and underinsured patients, lost their Ryan White money and had to cease operations (Kaiser Daily HIV/AIDS Report, 4/25). In addition, city administrators have failed to spend almost $1 million a year in funding, even though many eligible HIV-positive people did not receive treatment. Currently, the Ryan White funds are administered by a program director in the city manager's office. Previously, the Norfolk Department of Public Health managed the grant. If the Planning Council takes over management of the funds, it would be the third change in administration in five years.
Optimism Among Advocates
Although the deal is not yet final, City Attorney Bernard Pishko said that an agreement is likely. Mary Louis Campbell, president of the Planning Council, said, "We're hopeful that we will be able to provide this service." The Planning Council is currently reviewing applications for the position of Ryan White program director because the current director, Shirley Tyree, plans to vacate the position. "She has expressed a desire for a change of scenery," Pishko said, adding, "It is likely that Shirley Tyree will be doing something different for the city." Tyree has defended her work with the Ryan White program, but she was unpopular with the health care providers who work with patients covered under the program, according to the Virginian-Pilot. Some area AIDS advocates expressed optimism over the change in leadership. "I have great anticipation that this will be better," Jim Spivey, executive director of the Tidewater AIDS Crisis Taskforce, which uses Ryan White funding to provide services to HIV-positive individuals, said. "The Planning Council has a good reputation. I'm very familiar with them. They are very easy to talk to," he added. According to the Virginian-Pilot, Norfolk has one of the worst track records in the country for managing federal money used to treat and care for low-income people with HIV/AIDS (Virginian-Pilot, 10/10).
'A Fresh Start'
Norfolk "is smart to put Hampton Roads' AIDS money into the hands of professional administrators and to give the program a fresh start," a Virginian-Pilot editorial says. The Planning Council has a "stellar record," whereas the city's administration of Ryan White funding was "a shameful failure," the editorial says. The Planning Council's "long history and good reputation" with social services means that the city's AIDS care money will be "in good and capable hands," the editorial says, concluding that Norfolk "made a wise move in seeking out the Planning Council" (Virginian-Pilot, 10/13).