Cuts aimed at group that feeds the sick

Moveable Feast, which gives food to HIV/AIDS, terminally ill patients, might turn away clients

February 28, 2007|By Nicole Fuller | Nicole Fuller,sun reporter

A nonprofit social services agency that provides food to HIV/AIDS patients and other terminally ill people in the Baltimore area may be forced to turn away 175 of its clients beginning tomorrow because of funding recommendations that have decreased the group's federal support by half.

Moveable Feast is set to lose about $165,000 of its annual funding through the Ryan White Care Act because of directives made by Associated Black Charities, the agency contracted by the city to make funding recommendations for charities receiving federal AIDS money, according to Victor Basile, Moveable Feast's executive director.

Associated Black Charities recommended cutting funding by 50 percent to organizations providing food and nutrition services to AIDS patients, according to a 15-page document outlining its funding priorities for 2007. The Greater Baltimore HIV Health Services Planning Council, a 33-member group appointed by the mayor, distributes the approximately $20 million allocated annually to the area.

At issue is whether the funding is authorized for use by those who are not infected but who are "affected," such as the children of AIDS patients. According to Associated Black Charities, "The recommendation is based on a restriction to only serve infected persons. Based on current data levels, 20 percent of affected clients receive bags of groceries and 12 percent of affected clients receive home-delivered meals."

According to Basile and others familiar with the situation, Associated Black Charities has attempted to amend its recommendations after consultation with Basile, and members of the planning council have referred the matter to its evaluation commission. A decision may come sometime in March.

Basile said if a reversal doesn't come before tomorrow, March 1, he will be forced to stop services for about 175 people.

Representatives from the charities organization and planning council declined to comment.

The problem comes at a time of uncertainty for many organizations receiving federal funding for HIV/AIDS patients because of changes made to the Ryan White Care Act, including a requirement that 75 percent of the funding be allocated for core medical services.

"The federal government has strict rules about when money can be used for people that are not directly affected and those rules are what the planning council has to interpret and follow," Dr. Joshua M. Sharfstein, the city health commissioner, said last night. "There are unfortunately many services that we need more of for people with HIV."

Moveable Feast has been delivering food to people with HIV/AIDS in Baltimore and the surrounding counties since 1989, and it has since expanded its services to breast cancer patients. Approximately 675 people receive food. Meals are planned by dietitians and delivered to patients five days a week. Other clients receive nonperishable food items weekly.

"I have to cut off all of these people [from] food services that everybody acknowledges they need," Basile said. "These are pretty sick people. They're all poor. They're sick, so they don't have jobs. All of our services are free, and somehow they're going to have to figure out how to go shopping for themselves and cook for themselves ... for the sole reason that a mistake was made. I want them to restore our funding. All I'm trying to do is feed people who are sick."

nicole.fuller@baltsun.com

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