Much of Washington knows that the Whitman-Walker Clinic is in financial trouble. Mayor Anthony A. Williams (D) and D.C. Council member David A. Catania (I-At Large) helped mitigate that situation last week by directing more than $2.1 million in city money to the clinic for this fiscal year [Metro in Brief, July 6]. Other friends also have stepped forward with funding, including CareFirst, D.C. Chartered Health Plan Inc. and the Human Rights Campaign.
Whitman-Walker is grateful for this outpouring, but it does not mean that its cash flow problems are solved or that it can return to the status quo. It also, unfortunately, does not mean that it will be able to keep its clinics open in Northern Virginia and Maryland.
Although Whitman-Walker recently announced a plan to cut $2.5 million from its budget, that reduction will not address its systemic problems or enable it to restore all the programs that it has had to cut or reduce. Nor will the money allow it to cancel all 48 layoffs or restore 14 eliminated positions. The funding does mean, however, that Whitman-Walker will be able to continue to serve 5,500 clients in the District and that its two HIV testing vans will continue to operate.
But the clinic must scale back and change the way it operates. It must repay its line of credit, pay its vendors and build a reserve fund to create financial stability. City funds must be targeted to services in the District that otherwise would be cut under the clinic's restructuring plan. The D.C. funding will mean that the clinic's residential addiction-treatment programs can reopen and key medical and case management services that were to be reduced can be maintained.
The money that is coming from CareFirst has restrictions on its use too. The bulk will go toward keeping Whitman-Walker Clinic's food bank operating for 18 months to two years, while $150,000 will be for HIV testing. Further, the CareFirst money will not be delivered in a lump sum but will be released gradually during the remainder of the year.
As for the $300,000 from the D.C. Chartered Health Plan, the clinic received half that money June 20. Of that, $75,000 is going to the clinic's Max Robinson Center in Anacostia to help finish renovations and to continue services in an area in which the AIDS epidemic is most acute. The remaining $150,000 is a challenge grant for 2006 -- meaning the clinic must find donors to match that amount.
Meanwhile, Whitman-Walker must close its facilities in Maryland and Virginia unless additional, secure funding for two years is found. Continuity of client care will be the top priority. A task force in Northern Virginia has been trying to find money to keep the site there open after Oct. 1; otherwise, clients will be transferred to other providers or can receive services at Whitman-Walker's D.C. sites. In Maryland, Whitman-Walker is talking to community leaders about finding enough money to sustain operations. Key clinic staff members are meeting with Maryland and Virginia providers and health departments to develop a plan. A client survey also will be used in the development of a transition strategy.
The Whitman-Walker Clinic is not going away; it is changing with the changing times. AIDS service agencies in other major cities have undergone a similar process. For example, the Gay Men's Health Crisis in New York, the San Francisco AIDS Foundation and the L.A. Gay & Lesbian Center now are leaner, more focused and financially healthy. Whitman-Walker Clinic must and will follow these examples, for the sake of its donors, its employees and, most important, its clients.
-- Roberta Geidner-Antoniotti
is the interim executive director
and managing director of operations
at Whitman-Walker Clinic.