The state of Virginia and three local jurisdictions have agreed to provide up to $590,000 to keep the Whitman-Walker Clinic's endangered Northern Virginia facility open until the end of next year, officials announced yesterday.
Whitman-Walker had announced in June that it would close its facility in Arlington, as well as its suburban Maryland clinic in Takoma Park, on Oct. 1 as part of its effort to alleviate a financial crisis.
But under an agreement announced yesterday, Fairfax and Arlington counties, Alexandria and the Virginia Department of Health have pledged to cover 75 percent of the Northern Virginia facility's budget gap through December 2006. The Whitman-Walker Clinic will come up with the remaining 25 percent.
"We believe this is a very fair plan," said Joseph Santone, director of the Whitman-Walker Clinic of Northern Virginia.
Whitman-Walker, the area's largest provider of HIV/AIDS services, has been struggling to stabilize its finances recently and has announced a number of cuts, including closing its two suburban facilities and cutting back services at its D.C. clinic.
The agreement for the Arlington facility puts on hold -- at least for now -- an offer by the Los Angeles-based AIDS Healthcare Foundation to take over the Arlington facility from Whitman-Walker, officials said.
Yesterday, Healthcare Foundation president Michael Weinstein said the organization would still be interested in running the facility if Whitman-Walker bowed out in December 2006.
"But we're not looking to replace Whitman-Walker if Whitman-Walker wants to continue to provide the service," Weinstein said.
Local and clinic officials said yesterday that the agreement will keep the facility's doors open while Whitman-Walker tries to put its finances in order and figure out a long-term plan to fully fund the Arlington branch.
The 17-year-old operation served almost 1,400 clients last year, offering medical care, HIV testing and financial assistance, among other services.
But the facility, which has a $2.2 million budget, operates in the red and needs $800,000 to cover its budget deficit through December 2006.
Under the agreement, the three local jurisdictions and the state health department will provide up to $590,000 to offset the budget deficit. Whitman-Walker will provide the remaining $210,000. Most of that will come from a $200,000 bequest recently received from a Northern Virginia benefactor, clinic officials said.
The clinic has also pledged to "aggressively" seek additional money from private donors and congressional earmarks to reduce the amount pledged by local governments. It will also be required to submit monthly annual reports to the jurisdictions.
Public officials said yesterday that they were angered when Whitman-Walker -- after years of touting itself as a regional provider of HIV/AIDS services -- abruptly announced in June that it would close its suburban facilities without consulting them.
It was a "morally incorrect decision and very offensive to us on this side of the river," said Fairfax Board of Supervisors Chairman Gerald E. Connolly (D). About one-third of the Northern Virginia clinic's clients come from Fairfax County.
However, Whitman-Walker spokeswoman Kim Mills said the organization has been working under a "great deal of pressure" to come up with a plan to resolve its pressing financial problems.
Under the memo of understanding among the clinic, local governments, the state and the Northern Virginia Regional Commission, spending at the Arlington facility will be closely scrutinized. Whitman-Walker will submit monthly financial statements and will be reimbursed only for actual expenses.
While the deal represents at least a temporary reprieve for the Northern Virginia clinic, no such deal is in the works for the Takoma Park facility, which has 690 clients, Maryland officials said.
Instead, suburban Maryland officials say they are working to move Whitman-Walker clients to other local HIV/AIDS clinics.