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Archive for Wednesday, June 6, 2001

Handling of AIDS money under scrutiny

June 6, 2001

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— City officials are investigating complaints about the way the Kansas City Health Department administers federal dollars to AIDS patients in 11 counties in Kansas and Missouri.

The federal government, health officials in Kansas and Missouri and the head of a local group that sets spending priorities for AIDS money have all expressed concerns.

"There are obviously some problems that need to be resolved," said Donovan Mouton, a neighborhood advocate who is investigating the complaints. "We need to see how we can reshape things to work more effectively."

Kansas City Health Department officials deny the money was mishandled.

"I think it has to be misinformation," said Judy Moore-Nichols, who oversees the AIDS program. "We have a fantastic program, a wonderful program."

The area receives $3.3 million from the federal government each year through the Ryan White Care Act to provide medications, health care and other services to about 1,300 people with AIDS or the AIDS virus. Kansas and Missouri each receive separate federal grants for AIDS-related services.

Grant spending is decided by the Ryan White Planning Council, a group comprising more than 50 AIDS patients, AIDS service organization representatives and other officials appointed by Mayor Kay Barnes.

Last week, council chairwoman Marva Miller refused to sign a letter from the council endorsing funding priorities for this grant year, which started March 1.

Instead, Miller wrote her own letter that raised several concerns, including that $34,500 for minority services went unspent during the past fiscal year.

"I don't feel comfortable writing a letter saying everything is fine," said Miller, who runs a nonprofit agency that deals with AIDS issues affecting women.

City health department officials refused to mail Miller's letter, saying it was inaccurate and had not been approved by the planning council.

Health department officials said money for minority programs was not spent because of bureaucratic delays in getting programs started.

Miller's complaint followed one in March from U.S. Health and Human Services officials, who sent Barnes a letter alleging the city health department failed to spend thousands of dollars budgeted for lifesaving AIDS drugs and thousands of dollars more earmarked for the care of black and Hispanic people infected with the AIDS virus.

"We recommend that the local medication program be eliminated, and that funds be appropriately allocated to Kansas and Missouri," a U.S. Health and Human Services Department official said in the letter.

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