Health District Cuts $400,000 Grant that Helped HIV Sufferers Stay on Medications, Navigate Insurance System

On Wednesday, the Palm Beach County Health Care District board unanimously approved a planned $400,000 cut to the Comprehensive AIDS Program’s case management services despite testimony from 10 patients and providers that the services are vital.

Case management helps patients to stay on complex drug regimens, navigate insurance plans, and keep important appointments, advocates told the board. “If a person stops taking their medication, not only does their own health suffer, they become more infectious to other people,” said Yolette Bonnet, CEO of the AIDS program.

Anita Byrd of West Palm Beach said: “I was addicted to street drugs, and I have been clean now for 11 years because of case management. They found me in places where people never want to come.”

The HIV/AIDS grant was among a raft of cuts the board made in its tentative 2010 spending plan. Out of a $250 million budget, the special taxing district must slash $31 million due to increased demands on its insurance programs, which will serve nearly 40,000 people this year. School nurses’ hours were cut from 40 hours a week to 33 to save $3 million.

Jonathan Satter, the board’s chair, said he felt “darned if he did, darned if he didn’t” cut services or raise taxes to preserve them. “We cannot be the sole source for every program,” he said, noting he hoped the AIDS program was seeking foundation money.

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