June 7, 2004
On Friday, New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson said his office will provide $250,000 to the state's HIV/AIDS program to serve as a stopgap while the Department of Health looks for alternative funding sources to keep the program afloat. The money comes from federal funds allocated to New Mexico last year as part of a program to help states in budget crunches. New Mexico's HIV/AIDS program faces a projected shortfall of $1.6 million for this budget year and $2.8 million for the next budget year.
Health Secretary Patricia Montoya has been considering closing enrollment in the program and cutting direct services. On Friday, Montoya said she would delay such decisions "as long as we can," and instead intends to trim administrative and overhead costs.
According to state officials, the federal funding that pays for 63 percent of the program has remained relatively flat for three years, even as the cost of drugs and health care for HIV/AIDS patients has increased significantly. The department receives its federal money in April and typically does not spend it until the state budget begins on July 1, said spokesperson Beth Velasquez. This year, the agency has already dipped into the federal funds to cover program costs.
The HIV/AIDS program has served 1,497 clients over the past year, and almost 1,000 are currently enrolled in it. "The medications that we're taking are working. It's keeping us alive, but it's also costing a lot of money to do that," said Steve Garrett, executive director of the advocacy group POZ Coalition.
Among cuts planned by the health department, $1 million in funding to HIV centers for support services -- like food, housing and home health care -- will be eliminated. The department contends these can be provided through other sources.