A $300,000 grant and a proposed multimillion-dollar emergency appropriation would bolster the Whitman-Walker Clinic, less than three weeks after the nonprofit revealed serious cash-flow troubles and sweeping cuts in services to the region's AIDS and gay and lesbian communities.
D.C. Council member David A. Catania (I-At Large) plans to introduce legislation today that would redirect $2.2 million to the D.C.-based clinic from the city's HIV/AIDS Administration and its Addiction Prevention and Recovery Administration. Both agencies appear likely to have some significant unspent funds when the fiscal year closes Sept. 30.
Catania is the third council member to come to the clinic's assistance this month. Yesterday morning, Chairman Linda W. Cropp (D) and D.C. Chartered Health Plan Inc. announced that the HMO would donate $150,000 in each of two years for the clinic's Max Robinson Center in Southeast. The clinic is required to secure matching funds the second year.
"For more than 30 years, Whitman-Walker has been a mainstay in this city," Cropp said. "With the extraordinarily high percentage of HIV/AIDS incidences in the Washington area, we definitely need to keep open the doors of the agency that has provided the lion's share of services to our residents."
Roberta Geidner-Antoniotti, the clinic's executive director, said it was "extremely grateful" to Cropp and Chartered Health. "It is heartening to learn how many friends the clinic has in this time of need," she said.
Yesterday's news followed last week's confirmation of a $500,000 contribution by CareFirst BlueCross BlueShield's District affiliate, the largest private gift in the clinic's history. D.C. Council member Jim Graham (D-Ward 1), a former Whitman-Walker executive director, helped broker the health insurer's offer.
Late in the afternoon, Mayor Anthony A. Williams (D) informed Catania that he was developing his own plan for structuring and providing assistance to the clinic. He asked Catania, the Health Committee chairman, to delay a vote on the emergency resolution until July 6.
The clinic's crisis surfaced when it could not make payroll in mid-May. Soon after, its board approved $2.5 million in cuts, saying its day-to-day bills had badly outpaced its budget. In laying off nearly a quarter of its staff, it agreed to close its food bank and two housing programs and to terminate its Northern Virginia and suburban Maryland operations if no organizations in those jurisdictions stepped forward to take over.
Those troubles are separate from the clinic's acknowledged overbilling for laboratory services during at least a two-year period. The city's Department of Health, through which many of Whitman-Walker's funds flow, will conduct a major audit of programs and finances covering five years. Officials have suggested that the amount involved in the overbilling could be substantially higher.
Even so, Catania wants other city funds to help shore up operations. An aide said Catania would like a vote today despite Williams's request. His emergency resolution would designate $1.15 million to maintain the clinic's HIV/AIDS programs for residents and $1.05 million to continue offering health and substance abuse treatment.
Concerns that the funds could not be diverted in this way are unfounded, according to his office.
Some of the $2.2 million, if not spent by Oct. 1, would have to be returned to the federal government and would diminish future grant totals.
Whitman-Walker continues to hear from concerned individuals, community groups and foundations and has received contributions exceeding $220,000, a clinic spokeswoman said yesterday.