Supervisors Mark Ridley-Thomas and Shelia Kuehl introduced the motion that provides $5 million to public health programs and an additional $1 million in grant money for people with substance abuse disorders for the next two years.
The allocation is still wanting to be approved by the Health Department, and until it is, the Center could continue its current service levels with threatened programs as of the result of the dispute the organization has with Los Angeles County regarding the funding for current contracts.
The Center’s STD program cost it $1.5 million last year, which came from the reserve fund and various sources such as the LA County contracts. This contract has given the Center as consistent, but flat funding to the organization. Due to the rising demand for testing and treatment, the money from these contracts is running low.
The Center asked for an increase in funding from the County, which turned down the request. This surprised Darrel Cummings, the chief of staff at the Center. He said the organization had to use money from other programs such as youth housing services and senior meal services to pay for the costs.
Cummings said every service provided is affected by the redirection of funds.
The Board’s move to introduce emergency funding comes as the Center was getting ready to announce it was cutting its free STD testing and treatment, as announced in Cummings’ internal email.
The motion, which was authored by the LA County Supervisor Shelia Kuehl, was approved to ensure its reserves would help various community providers to continue offering services that would slow the rising number of STD cases in the area. The move comes at a time when federal, state and local governments have not provided enough funding for STD prevention.
LA County has been particularly hit hard by the rising in STD rates, especially has budgets have tightened. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said from 2016 to 2017, there was a rise in gonorrhea cases in gay men. The latest information shows that were more than 5,300 cases of syphilis, over 16,650 cases of gonorrhea and 30 cases of congenital syphilis between January and August of this year.
If the LA County Board of Supervisors had not introduced the emergency motion, the Centers would be forced to follow the funding limits as noted by the current contracts. According to Cummings, this means slashing STD testing and treatment by 50 percent or about 8,000 people undiagnosed with gonorrhea, which would only add to the crisis.
Cummings said it’s imperative public health officials focus harder on finding money for testing and treatment programs the Center and other agencies offer to the community including the LGBT community.
Written by Mark Riegel, MD
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