Tarrant AIDS agencies take a hit

AOC faced with nearly $300,000 in funding cuts as client load increases; Planning Council trying to track funds from defunct ARRT

Allan Gould

Tammye Nash  |  Senior Editor
nash@dallasvoice.com

Tarrant County largest AIDS service organization has found itself facing nearly $300,000 in federal funding cuts as it prepares to start its 2011-2012 fiscal year. And the area as a whole, while not seeing cuts as deep as had been feared, will be seeing fewer federal dollars than before.

Cuts at AOC
Tarrant County AIDS Outreach Center Executive Director Allan Gould said this week that his agency had been told in March that even though AOC was at that time receiving only part of the Ryan White Part A funds for which it had been approved, “we were told to go ahead and spend based on last year’s budget, and that we would get level funding [equal to the previous year] through Ryan White.”

But last week, Gould said, “six months into it, we found out that there would be some substantial cuts. That’s when we realized there is about $290,000 that we were expecting that we won’t be getting.”

And that, Gould said, is in addition to some $300,000 the agency had already known was being cut.

“We are adapting the budget, and we will survive. But it’s tough,” Gould said. “We are looking at what we’re doing, looking at what we feel are the absolute necessities and what areas can take the financial hit.

“Our fiscal year [started Thursday, Sept. 1] and we had a solid budget. Now we are having to reconfigure our budget and start over. We already knew we had to cut $300,000, and we did that. We had a solid budget. Now we have to cut another nearly $300,000,” he said. “It’s really going to hurt. We have been able to go back and balance our budget. But I can’t remember any time when we have had to try and do so much with so little.”

Under the reconfigured budget, Gould said that the agency’s case management programs would be cut by 40 percent, going from seven case managers to four. The three positions being lost will be cut through attrition, he said.

Despite the fact that proper nutrition has been proven to be pivotal in maintaining optimum health for people with HIV/AIDS, AOC is being forced to cut its nutritional therapy program by 50 percent, Gould said.

“Despite how important it is to the clients’ good health, nutritional therapy is not considered medically necessary,” he said.

AOC’s other programs, Gould added, are taking a 12 percent cut across the board.

At the same time funding is being slashed, Gould said, AOC has been taking on more and more new clients as other AIDS service organizations in the area have been forced to close.
“Over the last two years, we have absorbed quite a few new clients from other agencies,” he said, pointing to the Tarrant County AIDS Interfaith Network, which closed in 2009, to the Catholic Charities’ decision to end its Lady Hogan Project and to the closure last month of AIDS Resources of Rural Texas, which had offices in Weatherford and Abilene.

Jamie Schield

AIDS Outreach folded the TCAIN clients into its programs in 2009, taking over the network’s primary program, the Geisel-Morris Dental Clinic for people with HIV/AIDS. AOC also absorbed some of the Lady Hogan Project clients, and Gould said at least some of the ARRT clients have turned to AIDS Outreach for help as well.

He explained that when AOC took over TCAIN in 2009, “at the same time we were approached by ARRT about taking over their services in Weatherford and Abilene, too. But we were not in a position to be able to do that at the time.”

Although talks between the two agencies continued, Gould said, AOC officials had recently told those at ARRT that AOC probably would not be able to assume the other agency’s programs any time soon.

But since ARRT closed its doors at the end of August, Gould acknowledged, AIDS Outreach has been left with no choice other than to try and find ways to help those ARRT clients now left without resources.

“We immediately absorbed about 150 clients from ARRT’s Weatherford office,” Gould said, “on top of the 85 or so from the Lady Hogan Project and the 300 or 400 from TCAIN. We had about 1,600 clients before. Now we have around 2,000.

“That was a huge jump for us to make [in client load], and we only got a little extra money from those other agencies. We were able to make it work, but just barely. But with these recent cuts in federal funding, it’s going to be much more difficult,” he said. “There will be instances, I am afraid, when someone comes to us for help, and we are just going to have to say no.”

Gould acknowledged that he wasn’t surprised to see federal funds cut again, but he was surprised by how deep the cuts were.

“I am still in shock that they expect the programs to continue operating at current levels. It’s an almost surreal atmosphere,” he said. “We are constantly being asked to do more for more people, but do it with less funding and less manpower. And we have to do it under continual threats of even more cuts.”

Although he is “dismayed and frustrated” by the cuts — and by the level of political infighting and negativity he sees coming from Congress today — Gould said AIDS Outreach will continue to provide services to the HIV/AIDS community.

“The bottom line is, this is reality, and we are going to have to work with what we have. We have to be diligent in our expectations of help from the federal government, and we have to be prepared about what our next steps are,” he said.

“But we will not go away. And we won’t change our mission just to chase the dollars. We are prepared to make the adjustments we have to make to remain viable for the long run.”

N. Central TX HIV Planning Council

The closing of ARRT is also causing some headaches over at the North Central Texas HIV Planning Council, which allocates federal and state funding in Tarrant, Parker, Hood and Johnson counties.

Although the cuts there were not as drastic as had been expected, “it’s still a decrease in funds for the area,” Planning Council Coordinator Jamie Schield said.

“It’s not as bad as we thought. Originally, we thought we were looking at about $520,000 in cuts. But it turned out to be just $185,000” in Ryan White Part A funds, Schield said.

“And this is the first year that the federal government has given us the money in five different parts. It makes it hard for planning, hard for the agencies to work and to get the contracts out,” Schield added. “I guess they had some problems in Washington. The money is just not out yet.”

Schield and Planning Council HIV Grants Manager Margie Drake this week explained federal funding dispersed through the Ryan White HIV Treatment Modernization ACT — previously the Ryan White CARE Act — is divided into Part A, Part B, Part C and Part D funds.

Part A funds come directly from the federal government to the Planning Council to be dispersed among local AIDS service agencies. Part B funds go from the federal government to the state government and then to the Planning Council.

Part C funds are focused on medical treatment, and Part D funds are focused on women, children and youth with HIV/AIDS.

HOPWA funds are focused on housing people with HIV/AIDS.

The council also disperses money from the state to HIV/AIDS services, Drake said.

“All these categories have lots of overlap, but there are different amounts, different reporting requirements and different disbursement rules,” Drake said. “Tarrant County is one of the few places in the nation that actually has a planning council, and that gives us more knowledge, more control to make sure we are not duplicating services. It lets us focus the money where it’s needed most.”

However, the $395,000 in Part C funds that went to ARRT’s Weatherford and Abilene offices were not under the council’s control, and Schield said his agency is now left wondering what will happen to those funds.

“They got $395,000 total for the two service areas, and they got about half of that up front,” Schield said. “Now that ARRT has closed its doors, we don’t know what the feds are doing with the remainder of those funds that had been allocated for the current year. We want to apply for those Part C funds in the future, and the Tarrant County Commissioners [on Wednesday] gave us permission to do that.”

The problem is, Tarrant County is likely to be faced now with former ARRT clients seeking the services they lost, and money to provide those services is in short supply.

“We definitely think that there will be clients coming here [to Tarrant County] looking for help, especially those clients that went to ARRT’s Weatherford office,” Drake said.

“We can only serve maybe a third of those clients with the money we have. We don’t know what the federal government is going to do with [ARRT’s remaining Part C funds], and we’ve got clients right now that need care. We are doing the best we can to put a bandage on the situation and make sure no client goes without the services they have to have.”

Schield added, “Coordination of services and funding is really pretty good out here. We do that well. But the problem now is that we need to keep the money here where it’s needed.

“Our biggest thing now is to keep that [ARRT Part C] money here in the community. It’s a very urgent issue on our end to get some answers from the federal government about where that money is going, so we can plan on our end to make sure our clients here get what they need,” he said.

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition September 2, 2011.

—  Michael Stephens

N.H. lawmakers seek to repeal gay marriage

Welcome to 2011, the year in which we’ll have to prove we still know how to play defense. Take, for example, New Hampshire, where state lawmakers have already filed four draft bills seeking to repeal same-sex marriage, which was legalized in 2008. It’s unclear how the bills would affect the 1,500 same-sex couples who married last year, but if you’ve always dreamed of tying the knot in the Granite State, you may want to hurry up and do it. The Telegraph reports:

While some House members work to craft the Fiscal Year 2012 budget, others could work through the spring to shape the repeal legislation, sending a bill to a vote by the end of the legislative session in July, said state Rep. Leo Pepino, a Manchester Republican, who introduced one of the proposals.

With a 297 to 103 advantage in the House, and a 19 to 5 divide in the Senate, Republicans could have the two-thirds majority necessary to override Gov. John Lynch, who has promised to veto any repeal bill.

In 2008, the Democratic-led legislature passed the marriage law with 198 votes in the House and 14 in the Senate, becoming the sixth state to legalize same-sex marriage.

“I think we have the votes (to repeal),” Pepino said last week. “We have a lot of really good conservatives and a good conservative doesn’t believe in gay marriage. … It’s a matter of ethics.”

—  John Wright

Moriarty’s contract with DTC extended to 2014

Kevin Moriarty

Kevin Moriarty, the gay artistic director of the Dallas Theater Center, will be in town a little longer.

Moriarty, who took over the post in 2007, had his contract extended this week through the end of the 2013-14 season, keeping him as head of the 52-year-old company through August 2014.

The DTC also finished its fiscal year in the black for the eighth time in 10 years, with a budget surplus, despite spending exorbitantly on the revamped musical It’s a Bird, It’s a Plane, It’s Superman.

The DTC’s managing director, Mark Hadley, announced his departure earlier this year; this month represented his last show with the organization. He will be working with a church in Arlington. A search is currently under way for his replacement.

—  Arnold Wayne Jones

UPDATED: DADT vote could come Thursday

UPDATE: We’ve posted a full story on today’s vote here.

The Defense Authorization Act containing a repeal of “don’t ask don’t tell” is one of three bills scheduled for a cloture vote in the Senate beginning at 11 a.m. Eastern time, or 10 a.m. Dallas time, on Thursday, according to a Senate calendar released Wednesday night. The first of the three bills scheduled for a cloture vote is the DREAM Act, which passed the House on Wednesday but is not believed to have enough votes to overcome a filibuster in the Senate. As for the Defense bill with DADT repeal attached, all eyes will be on Maine Republican Sen. Susan Collins, whose misgivings prompted Majority Leader Harry Reid to postpone a planned vote Wednesday evening. Read Collins’ statement from last night here. Below are the Senate orders for today via AmericaBlog:

∙The Senate will convene at 9:30am and proceed to consideration of the motion to proceed to the Development, Relief, and Education for Alien Minors (DREAM) Act of 2010 (S.3992), with ten minutes reserved for Senator Durbin, and the remaining time until 11:00am equally divided and controlled between the two Leaders, or their designees.

∙At 11:00am, the Senate will proceed to a series of up to three roll call votes on the following:

o The motion to invoke cloture on the motion to proceed to the Development, Relief, and Education for Alien Minors (DREAM) Act of 2010 (S.3992).

o The motion to invoke cloture on the motion to proceed to the James Zadroga 9/11 Health and Compensation Act of 2010 (H.R.847).

o Reconsideration of the motion to invoke cloture on the motion to proceed to Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2011 (S.3454).

UPDATE: As of 11:15 a.m. Dallas time, the Defense bill was on hold indefinitely as negotiations between Reid and Collins continued. However, the tax bill was expected to arrive on the Senate floor within an hour or so. The tax bill could delay consideration of the Defense bill, but it would also address one of Collins’ main concerns — that the tax bill be dealt with first.

—  John Wright

FW adds partner, pension benefits for LGBT workers

HR Commissioner Thomas says Community Relations Department cuts won’t impair enforcement of nondiscrimination ordinance

Tammye Nash  |  Senior Editor nash@dallasvoice.com

FORT WORTH — After months of a contentious budget process, the Fort Worth City Council on Tuesday, Sept. 21 approved a $1.3 billion budget for fiscal year 2011, and with that vote also approved domestic partner benefits for city employees.

Beginning Oct. 4, LGBT city employees will be able to add their domestic partners to their insurance plan, with the employee paying all the costs of the added benefits. The insurance will go into effect Jan. 1.

The new budget also calls on the city to increase its contribution to the pension fund by 4 percent and to offer new hires the option of designating a survivor, which can include a domestic partner, to receive benefits.

The move to offer partner benefits came in under the radar, happening quietly and with none of the often rancorous debate that accompanied the vote last fall to add gender identity to the city’s nondiscrimination policy, or even the decision to form the Diversity Task Force that recommended adding partner benefits.

The task force was formed last summer in the wake of the raid on the Rainbow Lounge, and was created to suggest ways that the city could better serve its LGBT employees and citizens.

In fact, it was the way the council set up the task force that allowed the partner benefits to be added without opposition, according to Thomas Anable, president of Fairness Fort Worth.

The task force was created to study city policies and make recommendations on changes to City Manager Dale Fissler. All the recommendations Fissler concurred with, with the exception of any cost changes or policy changes, would be adopted without the need of a vote by the council.

Of the 20 recommendations made by the task force, all but three were adopted in January without a council vote.

One of those three — adding gender identity to the city’s nondiscrimination ordinance — happened last fall during a marathon council meeting that included dozens of speakers on both sides of the issue.

The council chose to delay implementation the other two recommendations — partner benefits and adding insurance coverage for gender reassignment surgery — pending further study to determine the cost to the city.

Anable said that once it was determined that adding partner benefits wouldn’t cost the city, partner benefits were “a done deal. The council didn’t even need to vote on it.”

A spokesman in Mayor Mike Moncrief’s office confirmed changes in the pension plan and the addition of partner benefits, but said details on the pension plan were still being hammered out.

He also confirmed that the addition of partner benefits did not require a council vote, but that the plan was presented to the council as an informational item during a pre-council meeting in August.

During the budget planning process, Fairness Fort Worth had expressed concern that proposed cuts in the city’s Community Relations Department would damage the department’s ability to investigate alleged violations of the city’s nondiscrimination ordinance.

But on Lisa Thomas, an openly lesbian member of the Fort Worth Human Relations Commission, said this week the final changes will not impede investigations or enforcement of the ordinance.

Thomas said commission members and commission chair Estrus Tucker, Community Relations Department Director Vanessa Boling, Fissler and Assistant City Manager Fernando Costa had “worked hard to ensure that the necessary budget cuts do not harm the ability of the Human Relations Commission to carry out its mission.”

In the final budget, the Community Relations Department has been eliminated, along with Boling’s post. Staff was reduced from almost 80 to almost 40, with some of those 40 employees whose positions were cut being absorbed into other departments, Thomas said.

“The remaining staff of 13 will support the Human Relations Commission and carry out the investigations and enforce federal regulations under Fair Housing and Equal Employment in addition to the recently-expanded city of Fort Worth nondiscrimination ordinance,” Thomas said.

The remaining staff includes an administrator, support staff, two communications offiers and an investigatory staff.

“I believe that the organization as it is proposed in the budget can work and will be considered substantially equivalent to the requirements as laid out in the federal regulations, allowing the commission and its work to continue,” Thomas said.

“In this way, we can continue to protect all the people who live, work and visit in Fort Worth.”

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition September 24, 2010.

—  Kevin Thomas

Fort Worth council to finalize budget Tuesday; cuts could impact Human Rights Commission

The Fort Worth City Council will hold its regular weekly council meeting tomorrow — Tuesday, Sept. 21 — and a final vote of the fiscal year 2010-2011 budget is on the agenda.

The council meets at 7 p.m., at the budget hearing part of the session is No. 13 on what looks like a pretty lengthy agenda. You can go here to see the entire agenda.

Like most other cities — and counties, and states, and the federal government — Fort Worth’s income from property taxes has dipped considerably, thanks to the significant drop in property values that occurred when the real estate market bubble burst. And that has left the City Council struggling to find a way to maintain services without having an huge increase in fees or the tax rate.

Back in August, Fairness Fort Worth posted this notice, explaining that one of the possible budget fixes the council was considering was to “eliminate the Community Relations Department as we know it.” That possibility left the Fort Worth Human Rights Commission with “grave concerns” over the possibility that, although the city has ordinances protecting its LGBT citizens and other minorities from discrimination, the commission’s ability to enforce the ordinance and investigate complaints would be compromised, since the Community Relations Department was the city department that provided support for that purpose.

I’ve gotten no word yet on whether the Community Relations Department is still on the chopping block, but you can go here to read the Fort Worth Star-Telegram’s article today on what’s happening with the budget.

If you can’t get down to Fort Worth City Hall to watch the proceedings in person, you can keep up with what happens by watching the council meeting streamed live on the Internet here.

—  admin

Westboro Baptist Church Memorial Ice Maker arrives at Resource Center Dallas

The Westboro Baptist Church Memorial Ice Maker

Resource Center Dallas’ new ice maker arrived on Tuesday afternoon. The machine was purchased with the funds raised from the “Hell Freezes Over” fundraising counterprotest of the Westboro Baptist Church’s appearance at RCD on July 9.

“Once again, a big thanks to everybody who donated and showed support! Resource Center Dallas would also like to thank Caven Enterprises, Cathedral of Hope, Buffalo Wild Wings on Lemmon Ave. and Kroger on Cedar Springs Rd. for allowing us to get ice after our old machine broke,” said RCD spokesman Rafael McDonnell. “Also, special thanks to Congregation Beth El Binah for their long-standing support of the Center. We will hold a formal dedication of the machine either late next week or the week of August 9.”

The fundraising total from “Hell Freezes Over” has neared $11,000. McDonnell joked that he would welcome a return visit from the Phelps cult, but asked them to time it for the next fiscal year.

—  David Taffet

Did the Rainbow Lounge raid prompt TABC to stop arresting people for public intoxication?

In fiscal year 2009, Texas Alcoholic Beverage Commission agents made 761 arrests for public intoxication — a figure that includes a few high-profile ones you may have heard about at the Rainbow Lounge in Fort Worth.

In fiscal year 2010, which began one month after the Rainbow Lounge raid, TABC has made just 81 arrests for public intoxication, The Austin American-Statesman reported over the weekend.

Based on these numbers, one might deduce that the highly controversial raid — which resulted in three agents being fired — also prompted TABC to abruptly change its enforcement practices. But according to the agency, this is only partly true.

TABC officials say the changes really began in fiscal year 2007, two years before the raid. Consider that in fiscal year 2006, TABC agents made a whopping 3,100 public intoxication arrests.

But in response to a long series of controversies — the Rainbow Lounge raid being just one of the latest — TABC began shifting its focus from petty criminal enforcement back to its mandate of regulating the businesses that sell alcohol.

Carolyn Beck, a spokeswoman for TABC who also now serves as its liaison to the LGBT community, told Instant Tea on Monday that’s it’s “impossible to calculate” how much of a factor the Rainbow Lounge raid has been.

“If you look at the decreasing numbers of criminal citations issued by our agents, and the increasing number of hours spent on investigations, it’s clear that we have been moving in this direction since FY 2007,” Beck said. “But you can also see a significant jump forward this fiscal year which started 9/1/09. It’s impossible to calculate how much of that push was in response to the Rainbow Lounge, but certainly incidents like the Rainbow Lounge and the shooting in Austin resulted in our agency direction changing at a faster pace.”

—  John Wright