Washington, D.C.-Based Whitman-Walker Clinic Announces $2.5M in Cuts; Services in N. Virginia, Maryland To End
The Washington, D.C.-based Whitman-Walker Clinic board on Tuesday approved about $2.5 million in cuts and announced it will end services permanently in the district's Northern Virginia and Maryland suburbs, moves that "amount to the most severe retrenchment in the 32-year history of the clinic," the Washington Post reports (Levine, Washington Post, 6/2). The group -- which serves about 7,000 HIV-positive individuals in the Washington, D.C., area and has a $29 million budget for 2005 -- last month announced it is facing financial constraints that might force the group to consider program cutbacks. The clinic, which provides HIV/AIDS testing and related health services to mostly low-income area residents in and around the city, also failed to meet its payroll last month for the first time since it opened in 1974. Whitman-Walker Interim Executive Director Roberta Geidner-Antoniotti said a series of budget and funding problems have contributed to the organization's financial problems, including more than $700,000 in late reimbursements owed to the clinic by the District of Columbia Department of Health and the housing agency of Prince George's County, Md. (Kaiser Daily HIV/AIDS Report, 5/27).
More than one-third of the anticipated savings will come from ending services at the clinic's satellite offices in Arlington, Va., and Takoma Park, Md., where the organization serves about 600 HIV-positive patients, the Post reports. Unless other not-for-profit groups step in to maintain the clinics, the offices will close in about 120 days, according to the Post. The clinic also is planning to close its food bank -- which serves about 300 people -- on July 1. Other changes include terminating a residential treatment program for illicit drug users and a housing program for former drug users, the Post reports. The clinic also plans to cut back clinic research, suspend contributions to an HIV/AIDS prevention program and reduce budget funding for case-management and administration costs. The clinic also will lay off about 25% of its 260-person staff.
"Because the heart of the clinic ... has been so big, often we've expanded programs beyond their funding," Geidner-Antoniotti said, adding that now the clinic will return "to the core services that we know are the most sustainable." The impact of the clinic's cutbacks could be significant, especially if other organizations do not fill the gaps in services, she said. The district has an HIV/AIDS prevalence rate of about 5% among adults, according to Geidner-Antoniotti, who said, "The epidemic will get worse. AIDS is still a killer disease." Washington, D.C., City Council member David Catania (I) said he "fears the consequences, not just for the city, but for the region," the Post reports. "This gives me pause, real pause," he said, adding, "In an era where the epidemic is still with us, to see this kind of retreat is disheartening." Despite the cutbacks, the clinic still faces financial difficulties, and "the crisis has been averted only temporarily," according to the Post. The group expects to make payroll on Friday, but its bank account is unstable, a $1 million credit line is exhausted and fundraising efforts are not being sustained, Geidner-Antoniotti said (Washington Post, 6/2).
Recent Related Developments
In addition to contributing to financial problems for the Whitman-Walker Clinic, the district health department's failure to pay reimbursements on time also has led the Carl Vogel Center, which provides case-management and counseling services to about 700 HIV/AIDS patients in the city, to reduce staff and cut back services. Health department Director Gregg Pane last week announced a plan to prevent further problems in delays for reimbursements. He said the current system will be severely pared and bills expedited to assure that not-for-profit groups receive reimbursements within 30 days or less. In addition, payments will be sent out prospectively each quarter so groups no longer will have to advance money to provide medical, legal, housing and social services to HIV-positive people. Pane also said health department officials will conduct site visits to not-for-profits that receive city funding. Pane said he will announce additional steps to the plan at a later time. In addition, the D.C. Inspector General plans to conduct an audit of the city's HIV/AIDS Administration (Kaiser Daily HIV/AIDS Report, 5/27).