Texas HIV/AIDS programs facing big fund cuts, increased service demands

The Fort Worth Star-TelegramSeptember 2, 2011 

North Texas organizations that help people with HIV/AIDS are facing cuts in federal funding at the same time that they're bracing for a rush of new clients from rural areas.

The closure Wednesday of AIDS Resources of Rural Texas, which operated centers in Weatherford and Abilene, was expected to drive many of its 350 clients into Tarrant County for help.

Those agencies say they are already dealing with a reduction of federal funds received this year under the Ryan White CARE Act, which provides HIV-related services for people without sufficient healthcare coverage or financial resources.

The AIDS Outreach Center in Fort Worth, for example, has already reduced its case managers from seven to four and is scaling back its food pantry, officials there say. The nonprofit agency serves about 1,800 clients.

"We're trying to come up with a different system for how we will get everyone's needs met," said Shannon Hilgart, associate executive director. "It's a little chaotic, and I think there is probably some fear among clients about what services will be there for them."

The funding changes were difficult to plan for because of repeated delays in the government's awarding of the money, said Randy Parsons, chairman for the North Central Texas HIV Planning Council. Ryan White CARE Act money for the 38-county region is administered by Tarrant County Public Health. The planning counsel advises the health department on best uses for the money.

The funding contracts started March 1, but the money was awarded "piecemeal" because the federal government made mistakes in algorithms used in the process, said Margie Drake, grant manager for the health department. The last award was received Monday, and the total amount is about $185,000 less than the Fort Worth area received last year.

Originally, it seemed that the Fort Worth area would lose more than $500,000, so the true loss is "not as bad, but still bad," Parsons said. Services most affected by the cuts include food pantries, transportation assistance, day-care programs and nonmedical case management.

Jamie Schield, planning coordinator for the council, said: "We ask our agencies to work in good faith that money will be coming ... and then when the money rolls to us later on and is less than we thought, it is pretty challenging."

Ryan White CARE Act funding has been steadily reduced since 2006, Schield said.

To read the complete article, visit www.star-telegram.com.

McClatchy Washington Bureau is pleased to provide this opportunity to share information, experiences and observations about what's in the news. Some of the comments may be reprinted elsewhere in the site or in the newspaper. We encourage lively, open debate on the issues of the day, and ask that you refrain from profanity, hate speech, personal comments and remarks that are off point. Thank you for taking the time to offer your thoughts.

Commenting FAQs | Terms of Service