Abrupt funding cuts mean big changes at 28-year-old Stop AIDS

Amy McMahon wasn't expecting the call she got from the Ohio Department of Health on Feb. 28. The CEO of Stop AIDS Cincinnati got one day's notice before the ODH announced to other organizations that the 28-year-old Cincinnati non-profit would not be eligible for $700,000 of federal money awarded for AIDS case management and treatment.

The CEO of Stop AIDS had received no notice of a change in criteria that disqualified her non-profit from applying for federal Ryan White Part B funding, money targeted to help treat and manage cases of HIV-positive clients. The agency has received this type of federal support, known as Ryan White Part B funding, for 20 years.

"It was a bit of a rude awakening," says McMahon, who has led Stop AIDS since 2008. Stop AIDS, formerly known as AVOC, had completed the state's request for proposal, which McMahon says did not mention any change in funding criteria. But an e-mail message from the ODH was clear: "HIV Care Services at ODH will no longer be able to continue to provide funding for Stop AIDS." The message from Katherine Shumate, ODH's Ryan White Part B Program Administrator, cited an audit statement about "substantial doubt about the Organization's ability to continue as a going concern."

McMahon could not understand the new ODH decision. "The services of Stop AIDS were used by the ODH as a model," she says. "Staff was asked to present at conferences and do training for other staffs."

Still, when she learned of the state's decision, McMahon had to act quickly. She let staff and board members know that Stop AIDS had one month to figure out how services to close to 1,000 HIV-positive clients could continue without interruption.

A solution emerged when sister agency Caracole, which has helped find safe, affordable housing and support for people with HIV and AIDS for 24 years, received most of the Ryan White funds that Stop AIDS was not eligible for. This increased the rolls of Caracole from 240 to close to 1,000 individuals.

"I'm so glad that Caracole is getting them," says David White, Stop AIDS' community investment coordinator. Caracole has already hired several Stop AIDS case managers. In as many cases as possible, they will stay with clients they served via Stop AIDS, which will continue to offer free HIV testing and education and outreach with a different set of funds.

McMahon and the remaining Stop AIDS staff plan to regroup and refocus in the wake of losing what amounted to almost half of their operating budget, while working with Caracole to try to provide stability in the HIV and AIDS treatment and education community.

Do Good:

Help Stop AIDS. Whether you make a monetary or in-kind contribution, every dollar counts. Stop AIDS provides education to more than 20,000 people and free HIV testing to more than 3,000 people every year.

Support Caracole. Make a donation to help Caracole provide an expanded level of services to an expanded number of clients.

Send a letter. Let lawmakers know that abrupt funding cuts for social services have consequences that can impact the most vulnerable members of our community.

By Elissa Yancey

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