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Analysis shows Whitman-Walker's problems were years in the making

Analysis shows Whitman-Walker's problems were years in the making

An analysis of the financial crisis that forced Washington, D.C.'s Whitman-Walker Clinic last week to announce sweeping service and staff cuts shows that money shortages and an overextension of the clinic's services existed for at least the past six years, The Washington Post reports. "Our hearts have, for many years, extended beyond our purse," Whitman-Walker board chairman Billy Cox told the Post. Although some of the financial crunch facing the AIDS clinic came from outside pressures--specifically, $700,000 in overdue reimbursements for services from the D.C. Health Department and Prince George's County, Md.--the agency also had been slow to react to dwindling donations and a drop-off in fund-raising. Personnel problems also made fund-raising difficult, the Post reports, with one executive director serving for only four months before being forced out of the organization. The clinic's board enacted a one-time budget cut after donations fell off sharply following the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, but instead focused mostly on selling some of its real estate holdings to raise capital. The agency also cut its long-term debt from $8.3 million in 1999 to $6.7 million in 2003 and enacted some other cost-saving reforms, including implementing a sliding-fee payment scale for some of its services and ending a housing assistance program, but the changes came too late, agency officials say. Whitman-Walker last week announced drastic program and staff cuts to help trim its annual budget by $2.5 million. The agency announced plans to close its satellite offices in northern Virginia and the Maryland suburbs; to lay off nearly one quarter of its 280 employees; and to eliminate or scale back such services as its food bank, emergency financial assistance, case management, and housing programs. The changes will be permanent, says interim executive director Roberta Geidner-Antoniotti.

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