Following this week’s cover story, “What’s in Their Wallets?,” N’R Peace, a local HIV/AIDS agency received a “monitoring visit” from the Mayor’s Office on Health Policy and AIDS Funding. Demitre Blutcher, N’R Peace’s executive director, says the visit was in retaliation for Blutcher speaking to Gambit Weekly about federal funding for local HIV/AIDS agencies.
“I believe this is payback,” says Blutcher.
The article points out that even though the city was awarded more than $7 million in March by the feds for primary care and support services for people living with HIV/AIDS, the city has yet to pay any of the local agencies that provide these services. Other cities that receive similar federal funding, Part A Ryan White funds, have been reimbursing their local service providers for months. Also in the article, Blutcher said her agency, which primarily focuses on poor African Americans, was in “critical condition” because of the delayed funding.
Fran Lawless, director of the Mayor's Office of Health Policy and AIDS Funding (MOHP), disputes Blutcher’s accusation of retaliation. She says her office scheduled the routine visits more than a month ago. She says that MOHP used to conduct yearly random visits to contracting agencies before the storm, but it isn’t something they’ve regularly done since then. She adds that MOHP does “monitor” their contractors annually, and that this is done in order to define how services are being conducted, and to ensure proper records are being kept.
Blutcher says that the MOHP’s representatives arrived at her office at about 10 a.m. this morning, and began interviewing her office staff, examining the offices’ policies and procedures and looking over N’R Peace’s records. By late this afternoon, 3 p.m., MOHP was still there. A frustrated Blutcher says she doesn’t understand why MOHP hasn’t previously visited her office.
“Where have [MOHP] all been,” Blutcher rhetorically asks. “Why don’t you know what I’m doing — what we’ve been doing on a routine basis? Suddenly you’re here after the article comes out.”