More than two dozen local, state and federal officials from across the Washington region, intent on ensuring care and services to HIV/AIDS clients of the financially troubled Whitman-Walker Clinic, met yesterday to discuss the nonprofit's proposed cuts and future.
The closed-door session focused on which other organizations might fill the void when the clinic, the region's largest provider of AIDS services, pulls out of satellite centers in Arlington County and Takoma Park. Its leaders announced $2.5 million in cuts last week.
Local funding agencies are compiling a list of alternate providers. Meanwhile, the clinic will survey hundreds of suburban clients to learn who may want to retain ties to Whitman-Walker for medical treatment. "If they had a choice, would they want to come into the District for care?" said Roberta Geidner-Antoniotti, the clinic's interim director.
With the clinic facing severe financial problems, the answers need to come back in a few weeks at the most. The planned cuts target numerous health, housing and support programs across the organization. A short-term bailout will not solve the problem, officials say.
District health director Gregg A. Pane termed the discussion "a very, very good meeting." The central issue was how to maintain a continuum of care for clients. "We all agreed to work collaboratively."
Northern Virginia AIDS activists and providers have a task force working on how the clinic's program there can become a standalone operation. Their counterparts in Maryland are several steps behind.
D.C. Council member Jim Graham (D-Ward 1), Whitman-Walker's executive director for 15 years, supports maintaining its regional mission. He said he is pursuing public and private funds to fortify the clinic's stability. "We shouldn't slice this thing up," he stressed.