Four health care centers in Maryland have received federal funding to enhance their services and outreach programs for HIV patients.
The four centers are: Community Clinic Inc. in Silver Spring, Family Health Centers of Baltimore, Health Care for the Homeless Inc. in Baltimore and Park West Health Systems Inc. in Baltimore.
Each center received grants ranging from $447,600 to $500,000 per year for the next three years.
The awards resulted from a partnership among the federal Health Resources and Services Administration, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and local health departments in four states — Maryland, Florida, Massachusetts and New York.
In total, 22 health centers received $9.9 million for the first year.
“Essentially, the funding enhances health centers’ ability to serve vulnerable people living with HIV in an outcomes-based and team-based way,” said Kevin Lindamood, president and CEO of Health Care for the Homeless, of Baltimore, which will receive a total of $1.3 million over three years.
Lindamood said the grant comes at a very opportune time for the Baltimore organization, which every year serves thousands of homeless individuals and is now experiencing a massive evolution in its business model.
Prior to the Affordable Care Act, only about 30 percent of the organization’s patients had health insurance. But due to the expansion of Medicaid under the ACA, about 90 percent of its patients are now insured.
In most respects, that’s a phenomenal improvement, but it also creates a frustrating new predicament, Lindamood said.
At issue is a federal initiative known as the Ryan White Program, which gives money to health care organizations so they can provide medical care and other services to people with HIV/AIDS who can’t afford treatment on their own.
Health Care for the Homeless has historically gotten many of these Ryan White grants, Lindamood said. But here’s the problem: Ryan White funds cannot be used to serve people who have health insurance.
So, now that most of its patients are covered by Medicaid, Health Care for the Homeless has had to return Ryan White funds to the city or the state. Other centers nationwide are likely in the same boat, Lindamood said.
But the situation gets even stickier.
“Our clients still have intensive needs and require wraparound services that are beyond what their insurance will cover,” Lindamood said. “So there’s this gap. It’s a real problem with the Ryan White program, and we believe it needs to change.”
In the meantime, Lindamood said the new grant from the Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA) will help his organization, and the other recipients, maintain and even expand their HIV services despite losing the Ryan White funding.
HRSA’s new HIV initiative is part of a broader federal investment in community health centers. The Affordable Care Act allocated $11 billion for these centers, and the subsequent stimulus package allocated another $2 billion.
That money is being used to help centers meet the increased demand for primary care services among historically underserved populations.