In the context of severe funding cuts to local AIDS support services over the last few years, it may not sound like much, but every little bit helps.
Officials with Dallas County Health and Human Services recently learned they will see an increase of roughly $650,000 from $12.13 million to $12.78 million in basic federal Ryan White AIDS funding this year. It marks the biggest increase since 2003.
“It means there’s a few more dollars to scatter around not a lot for those of us in support services, but anything is better than a loss,” said Roger Wedell, executive director of Texas Legal Hospice.
Wedell said the legal hospice, which assists low-income people with terminal diseases or HIV, suffered a 48 percent cut in federal funding last year when the county began implementing changes in anticipation of the Ryan White Treatment Modernization Reauthorization Act of 2006.
Under the updated act, which passed Congress in December, 75 percent of funds under Ryan White the chief source of government support for low-income people with HIV/AIDS must go to core medical services.
That leaves just 25 percent for support services such as legal aid, transportation, food and housing.
Previously there was no such restriction. But Congress added it because medical and pharmaceutical costs are rising as people with HIV and AIDS longer. However, the restriction has created some major challenges for support services like the Legal Hospice, the AIDS Resource Food Pantry and the AIDS Interfaith Network.
“It does not by any stretch of the imagination override the total cuts to support services, but any time there’s an increase in funds, it’s a good thing,” said Steven Pace, executive director of AIN, which provides transportation and other services.
Karen Petties, assistant director for Ryan White grants compliance at Dallas County Health and Human Services, said because of the new restriction, any decrease in overall funding “would have been very difficult to manage.”
DCHHS distributes Ryan White funds to 13 nonprofit agencies that provide services in eight North Texas counties.
Petties said there were smaller increases in 2005 and 2006 after a decrease in 2004.
“It’s up quite a bit more than the last three years,” she said. “We’re pleased overall.”
DCHHS Director Zachary Thompson said the agencies should be credited for the increase because Ryan White funding is competitive nationally.
“To see an increase here locally is a testament to the quality of services provided by our organizations here,” Thompson said. “I commend our Ryan White staff here, but I also commend those agencies for really doing one heck of a job in ensuring that services are going directly to the client.”
This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition, June 8, 2007.
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