January 7, 2010
The District of Columbia's largest needle-exchange program, Prevention Works, has been dealing with a cash crunch for several months, despite new city funding opportunities. The federal ban on the District using its funds for NEPs was lifted in 2007. Until then, Prevention Works had to rely on private donors and philanthropic grants. The agency offers injection drug users services from its Northeast Washington headquarters and from a mobile unit.
Despite receiving $1 million in city funding over the past three years, Prevention Works is nearly out of money. Lower-than-expected private donations have left Prevention Works several hundred thousand dollars short of its $1 million annual budget, said Philip Terry, its executive director since late 1988. Over the summer, Terry said he had to deplete the contingency fund to meet payroll and replenish supplies.
Just after Thanksgiving, Prevention Works ran out of rubber gloves, antibiotic ointment and the diabetic needles its clients prefer to use. On at least one occasion, clients were turned away without sterile syringes, interviews and records show. In November, the group lacked enough money to make its payroll and notified the city of its troubles. The District eventually helped with a $27,000 payment. Prevention Works is also expecting $300,000 in annual contributions from private foundations in early 2010, Terry said.
Under a previous executive director hired to oversee its expansion, Prevention Works failed to submit applications for new AIDS grants, former employees say. Though Terry noted that independent audits of the agency have been clean, the recent financial problems are alienating some longtime supporters, including vendors and contractors who have gone unpaid.