Quick Hit Ellyn Fortino Friday June 10th, 2016, 12:29pm

Federal Funding Saves Illinois Pediatric AIDS Prevention Group From Closure

HIV-positive mothers and their unborn babies are benefiting from an 11th-hour infusion of federal funding that saved an Illinois nonprofit from closing due to the state budget impasse.

Anne Statton, executive director of the Pediatric AIDS Chicago Prevention Initiative (PACPI), said approximately $500,000 in available federal funds was released to the organization by the Illinois Department of Public Health (IDPH). The funds will cover outstanding invoices for contracted services PACPI performed between July 2015 and March 2016, Statton said.

PACPI, which works to prevent mother-to-child HIV transmissions, depends on IDPH for about 85 percent of its funding. Currently, the organization has state contracts that collectively total about $845,000.

Without the federal funding, PACPI would have been forced to shut down in October.

"I am incredibly grateful for the extremely strong and close partnerships that we have with the state," Statton said. "They've sat down with us to try to brainstorm ways in which we could continue to deliver these services and they could be funded." 

The organization has now received most of the money it is owed by the state for services performed since July 1, when Illinois entered the current fiscal year without a budget.

"But there's still about three months that haven't been billed and will be billed, and we believe will be reimbursed" with available federal funds, Statton said.

PACPI is an organization "working to eliminate deaths from pediatric AIDS and to reduce transmission of the virus from mothers to their children in the state of Illinois," according to its website. 

Among other services, the group provides enhanced case mangement to HIV-positive mothers and runs the 24/7 Illinois Perinatal HIV Hotline. PACPI serves between 120 and 140 women annually.

"This is an extremely vulnerable group of women that we're serving -- HIV-positive, pregnant women who are trying to have HIV-negative babies," Statton said. "The service that we provide is a very hands-on service in the field that is specifically targeted toward the most vulnerable women ... If we weren't there, and we weren't connecting them with care, I think that it is fair to say that we would see cases of transmission of HIV from mother to child in the state of Illinois."

Last year, there were zero reported cases of babies born with HIV in Illinois, according to PACPI.

"That's something that hasn't happened in the state of Illinois for a very, very long time," Statton said, noting that it costs the state an estimated $1 million for the lifetime treatment of each HIV-postive newborn.

"We can't really afford to not do this prevention," she stressed.

PACPI was a plaintiff in the lawsuit brought against the state last month by a coalition of human and social service providers. The Pay Now Illinois coalition of social service providers are seeking state payments for contracted services performed during the budget impasse. PACPI withdrew from the lawsuit after receiving the recent infusion of federal funds.

While the federal funding has allowed PACPI to remain open, numerous other providers of wraparound support services for HIV-positive mothers, including many agencies named in the Pay Now Illinois lawsuit, have yet to be paid by the state. 

"All of the various agencies that we have been, in the past, able to refer our clients to, the ones that have state contracts are suffering and are not able to actually accept those referrals," Statton said. "It's making the work of trying to kinda stabilize the living situations of these women that much harder for the case managers."

It's time, she said, for state lawmakers and the governor to "set aside the political differences" and enact a budget to ensure human and social services are properly funded and vulnerable Illinoisans are protected. 

"There are so many agencies that are closing their doors and services that could be provided that are not being provided," Statton stressed.

Image: Melanie Stetson Freeman/The Christian Science Monitor

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