New Orleans Health Officials Should Examine ‘Ways To Speed Up Process’ of Distributing Ryan White Funding, Editorial Says
"Six months is a long time to wait if you're fighting a disease like HIV/AIDS or if you are an agency that works to help those patients," a New Orleans Times-Picayune editorial says in response to the recent announcement that the distribution of $7 million in Ryan White Program funding to city HIV/AIDS agencies has been delayed by six months (New Orleans Times-Picayune, 11/10). Fran Lawless, director of Mayor Ray Nagin's Office of Health Care Policy, made the announcement at a city council meeting on Oct. 30. According to Lawless, who testified before the council's Housing and Human Needs Committee, the city received the money March 1 but did not send out grant award notices to medical case management agencies until June and did not finalize contracts, which are required for funding to be spent, until October. In explaining the reasons for the delay, Lawless said some agencies were slow to file spending invoices and blamed "implementation problems" for the long contracting process, saying that funding "will flow better from now on."
Although the "Nagin administration did better than the Morial administration," the "long wait this year hurt agencies at a time when cases are on the increase," according to David Munroe of In This Together, the editorial says. In addition, none of the reasons for the delay provided by Lawless at the city council meeting "explains why it took [her] office four months to begin contract negotiations," the editorial says, adding, "The office has seven staffers, and Councilwoman Stacy Head pointed out that departments with much larger budgets operate with only two or three people." In addition, although Lawless "said that the contracting process will flow better in the future," when "council members suggested that her office review applications before the funding is announced each March, she was noncommittal," according to the editorial. That is "no way to improve," the editorial says, concluding, "This office should be looking at ways to speed up the process. As Councilman Arnie Fielkow pointed out, 'We're not dealing with a pothole here. We're dealing with life'" (New Orleans Times-Picayune, 11/10).