October 31, 2012
Recently, the U.S. Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA) turned down a $1.7 million grant renewal for the Family, Adolescent and Children's Experience (FACES), a program that serves HIV-positive women, infants, children and youth all across Brooklyn.
The FACES program, a network of seven clinics, served 1,175 HIV-positive patients last year, all of whom could suffer as a result of this drastic loss of funding. Meanwhile, more than 20 staff members, including doctors and case managers, have already been laid off.
As to the reasoning behind the funding cut, program director Jeffrey Birnbaum, M.D., M.P.H., was informed by HRSA that Kings County Hospital and the FACES Network were in a "head-to-head" competition as the single grantee for Brooklyn.
"This assertion is ludicrous given that both applicant programs were previously funded incumbents under Part D [Ryan White funding specifically for women, children and their families], both seeking renewal and both serving vastly different geographic and demographic sectors of the Brooklyn HIV population," Birnbaum told TheBody.com.
"HRSA did fund Kings County Hospital Center for a sum of $350,000, leaving it as the sole Part D recipient to cover the entire borough of Brooklyn. Whereas both programs were previously funded to serve Brooklyn for a total of $2.05 million combined, the borough now is funded at a much lower amount of $350,000, an 83% drop in funding to serve some of the most vulnerable sectors of the HIV community in Brooklyn," Birnbaum said, noting that Manhattan had been awarded six grants.
FACES Network's current HRSA funding ran out on Oct. 31. But it still has some state funding, including grants from AIDS Institute to serve adolescents and young adults. "We have lost a lot of staff, so many of the patients will be reassigned to providers on a much smaller staff," Birnbaum said. While we will do the best we can, I am concerned about retention in care of individuals who live in marginalized situations. I also worry about how having less staff will affect quality of care."
Birnbaum stressed that FACES does not intend to drop any patients or turn anybody away. However, with a reduced case management staff and diminished services, the program will do their best to serve the same number of patients.
But, with community help, Birnbaum hopes to get HRSA to change its mind and restore funding. "Anybody who can make noise about this or is connected to politicians serving Brooklyn should contact them. We have until the end of this month to get a reversal on this horrible decision from HRSA," he said.
Warren Tong is the research editor for TheBody.com and TheBodyPRO.com.
Follow Warren on Twitter: @WarrenAtTheBody.