Friday, January 23, 2015

Turning Up the Information Heat

ADH Continues Awareness Day Funding Failures

Over the years of our covering HIV and AIDS in Arkansas, this forum has sought to be optimistic but steeped in the Reaganism of "trust, but verify." It is no secret that the STI/ HIV/ Hepatitis C
Section has had its full share of insensitive leadership, lackluster responses, meandering policies, convoluted processes and black eyes from the Lola Thrower era meltdown in which we learned that the department had its own self styled "mafia Queen," in the house.

All that aside, COP 24/7 was shall I say "shocked, I tell you, shocked!, to learn that when you think an agency can exhaust all of its possible ignorance, now we learned that of the five 2014 HIV Awareness Day proposals submitted only one was partially funded. The rest were not funded without any adequate explanation and to add additional insult, there was no official reply letter forwarded to the agencies citing this decision. And to this day, no officials have offered any explanations to this circumstance.
Why is this important you ask? Thanks for asking.  The section each year is awarded separate funding allocations to support area "awareness day," activities concerning both possible testing events or other activities that are designed to increase awareness about this health dilemma. The funding pool could range as high as $50,000 to be offered as independent proposal grants ranging from $2,500 to $10,000. Now here's the $100,000 question. If the bulk of this funding was not awarded, "what happened to rest," of this, oh may I add "2013 carry over?" Seems like there needs to be some explaining and maybe a Freedom of Information action pursued.

Just so you know dear reader, this story will perhaps take a few post to make sense, so bear with us as we unpack this hot mess package. First up, there was a community "funding announcement," circulated October 23, 2014,  from Section Program Manager, Courtney H. whom seeks such announcement to be shared with possible grantees. She has been at ADH for 4 years and has shared this information numerous times previously.  Just so there's no misunderstanding about this here is the actual notice:

The Arkansas Department of Health STI/HIV/Hepatitis C/TB Section would like to announce a one-time funding opportunity to the community. The Section believes it is important for all Arkansans to be educated on HIV/AIDS and be tested for HIV. The prevention goal of this project is to increase testing and to support educational, awareness activities which target those at highest risk who have not been effectively reached. I have attached the information needed to apply for this funding. This information can also be found by visiting the Arkansas Department of Health’s website: . Under the heading GRANTS, select funding opportunities.  The solicited proposal information for this funding is listed under Grant and Bid Opportunities. Please let me know if you have any questions. Thanks.

Are you still with me? From our knowledge of ADH processes, this announcement could not have been posted to the organizational website without a litany of "sign-off' signatures" from a dizzying array of levels of bureaucrats galore!

Furthermore, again let's be clear that this was sent out with the hopes of receiving "proposals" from qualified agencies to fulfill the goal of "increase testing and support educational, awareness activities..." Also just so you know, these proposals and all things ADH are in the form of "reimbursable," instruments in which you "Agency A," has to have the actual funds, say a spare $10,000 in your budget to be spent depending on your proposal.

In turn if you are approved by ADH, they purportedly will "reimburse," Agency A for the effort. Now that we've got all of that out of the way, here is some more "shocked" part. The candidates were:

The Tidwell Project
Saint Mark Baptist Church
LinQ for Life, Incorporated
Future Builders, Incorporated (partially funded)
Awareness Center International, Incorporated (submission withdrawn)

Each of the proposal submitted met deadlines and all necessary qualifiers as "proposals," which means they offered a unique or perhaps innovative approached to meet the intended goals. This is especially interesting since each entity could have reached multi-cultural audiences especially St. Mark which is among the largest Black faith based organization in the city. Just as a note, this mega-church was recently tapped earlier this week to host a city wide MLK Prayer Breakfast with another state entity the King Commission without any problems. Imagine that!

Each organization such as the Tidwell Project which promotes the arts as apart of awareness in non-traditional spaces has a distinct track record with support from the Arkansas Medical and Dentist Association. So what could have been so wrong with this proposal?

LinQ for Life, Inc. proposed to socially address targeted populations as emphasized by the National AIDS Strategy and statistical information which cites only 64.1% of African Americans living with HIV had some viral suppression. Meanwhile, African Americans who were diagnosed with HIV are the least likely to be linked to HIV medical care. Seems odd that this proposal too was dismissed.

ACI finally withdrew their proposal due to filing complexities and other challenges of accessing these funds. But with the track record of acceptance most likely they would have got the "denied," pen stroke. Future Builders was approved for a meal service during its annual symposium held last year. Other incentive items were not approved from the request.

Amazing as it would seem, all of these activities proposed by these groups is encouraged and supported by the CDC. Not to mention that there is a history of such activities supported by ADH and other state entities such as the Arkansas Minority Health Commission.

Now that we've put it out there, it time to demand some further explanations and clarity about who is making these decisions and why. Why are these funds continuously being "carried over," and why are these funds not being deployed into impacted communities. And last but not least why were these organizations not afforded a professional courtesy to be informed in writing as to these decisions. Stay tuned, this situation might get ugly....

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