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MARIN COUNTY'S NEWS MONTHLY - FREE PRESS
(415)868-1600 - (415)868-0502(fax) - P.O. Box 31, Bolinas, CA, 94924


October, 2004

 

AIDS Voices Reheard-Council Replaces Commission
By Karen Nakamura
   There has been a reprieve of sorts for the Aids community in Marin. Marin County's Department of Health and Human Services, which oversees the distribution of Ryan White HIV/AIDS Funds in the County, has followed through with its pledge to form an organization to give legal voice to the AIDS community according to federal guidelines.    
   The dissolution this spring of the Marin AIDS Commission, which had been the community voice for two decades, was brought about due to a funding distribution dispute between certain members of the Commission and Health and Human Services. To solve the dispute the Marin County Board of Supervisors brought in a consultant Michael DeMayo who advised the Commission's dissolution. 
   While this brought heated disagreement from a community already worried about its opinions being lost in the shuffle, the dissolution was ultimately accepted. This was in large part because of the report's emphasis on the need to meticulously follow federally mandated Ryan White Funding guidelines. Much of the problem between the County and the Commission was because of a lack of comprehension and implementation of those guidelines. 
   The Marin HIV/AIDS Planning Council had its first orientation meeting September 2. It included approximately 10 representatives of various community interests. Some members of the former Marin AIDS Commission were invited to join the new council. They included Betsy Gornet, Director of Hospice of Marin, Marc Hering from Centerpoint, Barney Pia of the
Positive Center, and Gregory Giorgi and William Boemer, at-large representatives. MHHS Director Larry Meredith with several of his staff represented Health and Human Services. There were also five to six observers.
   One of the highlights of the meeting was when Larry Meredith passed out copies of huge, book-like, Ryan White guidelines. Emphasis was made that the new planning council would be run according to these guidelines and thus would have no teeth other than presenting recommendations to MHHS. But some former commissioners were more concerned that MHHS would act on the new council's recommendations in good faith rather than ignore them as they felt recommendations from the Marin AIDS Commission was ignored by MHHS. These people are learning every word and nuance of the new regulations that relate to them. 
   Former long-time commissioner, Gregory Giorgi, suggested that many in the community are afraid the minimum funding requirements would be enacted but nothing beyond that minimum. He wants to see a system of quantified service-driven guidelines, which go beyond the quality/quantity of service to do something greater. An example would be to set standards and follow-through on the number of check-in phone calls case managers make to clients a month. 
   In connection with the ongoing problem of caring for clients' actual needs, Hospice Director Betsy Gornet suggested that the new council do input/service surveys long before the eleventh hour, a previous problem with the Commission.           All in all, it was a productive meeting with plenty of follow up reading to be done. The second meeting, however, was canceled due to a scheduling conflict of one of the MHHS staff. This bothered one of the attendees of the first meeting. "I've been worried about ensuring this Council really is an active force. For one important member to take off and cause the meeting to be canceled is disturbing. The people at the first meeting spent considerable time coordinating scheduling dates. But because the first meeting was productive, I'm hopeful that this will be only a one time glitch." We'll be watching.   
 

 

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