Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Tuesday Marching Orders

AIDS CZAR NAMED by Obama Administration

It's been no secret that President Obama has been in a hiring mode since his election, even if other industries have been laying off folk. I know that good help is often hard to find and you look for the brightest and best, but I had mixed feelings at the recent news of an Obama Administration's announcement. It was the appointment of longtime HIV/AIDS health care advocate Jeff Crowley to head the long-vacant Office of National AIDS Policy (ONAP), which is charged with developing the National AIDS Strategy.
Crowley, M.P.H., is a Senior Research Scholar at Georgetown University's Health Policy Institute and a Senior Scholar at the O'Neill Institute for National and Global Health Law, Georgetown University Law Center. I wondered what did the short list of names consisted of and ultimately the final choice. There's no dobut that credentials are not the issue, but since the AIDS dilemma is so squarely in the Afro American community, personally I would have hoped for a person from this community. According to other sources they cite,
"This is brilliant," was the reaction of David Munar, who chairs the National Association of People with AIDS (NAPWA), where Crowley worked from 1994-2000. "The Administration made a strategic choice about someone who knows health care above all else, so they got a two-fer: he is passionate about HIV, and he knows health care systems. This means the office will be relevant. He will champion us and our needs in the health care reform process."
Advocates note that ONAP had already gained relevance in the eyes of the Administration due to the AIDS community's work to secure $1.4 million for the development of the National AIDS Strategy (NAS) in the upcoming omnibus budget bill, which is poised go into effect on March 6 when the continuing resolution ends.
The Domestic Policy Council, where ONAP is based, had been eviscerated during the Bush years, and those who have spoken with Council staff have said that they are appreciative of the resources and are committed to the NAS process.
Advocates anticipate that the funding, which has to be obligated (committed to specific spending if not literally spent) by the end of the fiscal year on September 30, could pay for a six or seven staff members for ONAP. It could also go towards the additional costs of establishing a cross-government/community panel, which is the structure that the Coalition for a National AIDS Strategy (of which I am a member) has recommended to develop and monitor the NAS.
"Clearly, health care will be a cornerstone of a successful NAS," noted Chris Collins, "Jeff's appointment is great news and I look forward to working with him to create a NAS that brings more accountability, coordination and an orientation to outcomes in our response to HIV in the United States."
Collins was one of the other candidates interviewed for the ONAP post. For the past week, those involved in Federal AIDS policy had heard that the appointment was imminent, and that a small number of people had been interviewed for the position, including Collins and Jesse Milan, chair of the board of Black AIDS Institute. But many advocates expressed surprise at Crowley's appointment, as there had been no buzz that he was a candidate or they had assumed he would be appointed at the Centers for Medicaid & Medicare Services (CMS).
The White House release cites Crowley's primary areas of expertise as "Medicaid policy, including Medicaid prescription drug policies; Medicare policy; and consumer education and training."
And indeed, those who have worked with him on these issues were clearly excited, even gushing, about the appointment, including Robert Greenwald, Director of the Treatment Access Expansion Project (TAEP).
"I think it's amazing," said Greenwald. "He is one of the most hardworking, diligent, non-ego-involved people I've ever worked with, just a good person. I can't even believe it. He's incredibly plugged into the community."
While Crowley helped to develop the National HIV Testing Day Campaign during his tenure at NAPWA, those who have worked closely with him in recent years do note that prevention is not his main area of expertise.
But Munar, calling Crowley an "instrumental team player," says he expects that, far from having a deaf ear towards prevention, Crowley recognizes its importance, will bring in those who know it well and will talk about it from a health care perspective, emphasizing a cost-savings paradigm that he believes will resonate well.

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