Gould says steady decline in clients at suburban office and the economy are reasons for closure
The economy may be on a slow rebound, but it didn’t happen fast enough to keep Tarrant County’s largest AIDS service organization from announcing new cutbacks just before the Memorial Day weekend.
In a statement released Friday, May 31, Allan Gould, executive director of AIDS Outreach Center of Tarrant County, announced that the agency would be closing its Arlington office, effective Aug. 31.
The organization is also eliminating four staff positions and reducing hours for a fifth position, as well as eliminating all but one of its contract counselor positions.
"This is a very difficult decision to reach in light of AOC being actively involved in the Arlington community for over a decade," Gould said. "However, with the effects of the worsening economy and a lack of viable transportation within the city of Arlington it has become clear that those most in need of our programs and services have an ongoing challenge in reaching us."
He said the number of clients accessing services at the Arlington office has seen a steady decline over recent years. Because of that and "the ongoing economic downtown," it is no longer feasible for the agency to maintain that office.
But the center still wants to be available to its clients in the eastern part of Tarrant County. So officials have made arrangements to offer some services at sites in Arlington.
Regular confidential testing, medical case management services and counseling services will be offered at both the Tarrant Community College Southeast Campus and at the University of Texas at Arlington campus.
Other locations where services will be available will be announced later, Gould said.
Of the four positions being eliminated at the center’s main campus, located at 400 N. Beach St. in Fort Worth, three ended as of Monday, May 31.
Those three are associate executive director for oral health, volunteer coordinator and Arlington program services coordinator.
The position of office manager is also being eliminated, effective June 15. Duties for all four positions are being reassigned to remaining staff.
All of the center’s contract counselor positions are being eliminated except for one spot for a Spanish-speaking counselor. Those duties will also be reassigned to existing staff counselors.
In one final cost-cutting effort, the center is reducing the hours for its staff accountant to 20 hours a week, with a maximum of 30 hours a week under certain circumstances.
Gould also said that while the complete closure of the Arlington office is effective Aug. 31, there will be only limited access to the office until then, a move intended to facilitate the closing and let clients know about the change.
AIDS Outreach Center, a nonprofit agency with 501(c)(3) tax-exempt status, was founded by members of the LGBT community in 1986 as the Fort Worth Counseling Center and intended to provide counseling to those impacted by HIV/AIDS.
For the first two years of its existence, the agency was operated completely by volunteers who had no funding for their work. The agency received its first funding — a grant from the Texas Department of Health — to provide HIV/AIDS-related services. That grant allowed the center to hire its first two paid staff members.
As of Sept. 1, 2009, AIDS Outreach Center merged with Tarrant County AIDS Interfaith Network and took over TCAIN’s expansive dental services program. At the same time, the center moved to its new location on Beach Street.
In addition to the dental clinic for people with HIV/AIDS, the center also offers client advocacy programs, mental health counseling, medical case management, a food pantry, housing assistance, legal assistance, insurance assistance, transportation assistance, an information hotline, HIV testing, education and outreach, youth services and professional education services including workshops and training on HIV/AIDS issues.
This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition June 04, 2010.