Arkansas: Benton County HIV Patients Could Be Turned Away From Treatment
June 16, 2010
A disagreement between two county governments over how to fund an HIV clinic is threatening to leave some its patients without a source of care.
A meeting to resolve these differences is scheduled on Thursday for representatives of Washington County, which operates a county HIV clinic, and Benton County. Of the 700 patients served by the Washington County HIV Clinic since the facility opened in 1992, 266 were from Benton County.
Benton County contends a deal struck this year calls for it to pay Washington County $17,000 in the first part of 2010, and another $17,000 when the clinic receives nonprofit 501(c)(3) tax status.
Washington County's attorney said the county has not abandoned the attempt to organize the clinic as a nonprofit, but added that the process is time-intensive and that nonprofit status may not attract the funding Benton County officials believe it will.
"That's never something we'd agree we would do because it's not practical," said George Butler, Washington County's attorney. "Just because it becomes a 501(c)(3) there's not a magic source of funds out there that can keep the clinic running day to day, year to year."
Washington County officials said they will have no choice but to turn away Benton County residents unless the costs of these patients are reimbursed.
It is "a violation of the Arkansas Constitution to spend Washington taxpayer money on Benton County residents," Butler says.
Benton County officials reiterated their desire for the clinic to attain nonprofit status.
"We feel like a 501(c)(3) status is an asset to them, because it allows them to receive donations from other private groups, and they wouldn't solely be dependent on public monies," Benton County Justice of the Peace Tom Allen said.
KFSM-TV (Fort Smith/Fayetteville)
06.15.2010; Robert Boyd
This article was provided by CDC National Prevention Information Network. It is a part of the publication CDC HIV/Hepatitis/STD/TB Prevention News Update.
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