February 17, 2011 | by Lou Chibbaro Jr.
Restructuring credited with Whitman-Walker revenue gains

Whitman-Walker executive director Don Blanchon (Blade file photo by Michael Key)

Whitman-Walker Clinic’s ability to operate with a positive cash flow last year for the first time in nearly 10 years – and its expectation of remaining in good financial shape for the foreseeable future – is due to its transformation from a volunteer-based AIDS service group to a full-service community health center, according to executive director Don Blanchon.

In a briefing for the Washington Blade, Blanchon displayed charts and graphs showing what he called a dramatic change in the Clinic’s sources of revenue.

At a time when other community clinics providing services to the LGBT community and other communities are facing financial hardship due to diminishing government funding and a drop in private donations, Whitman-Walker has become far less reliant on both government funds and revenue from private donors, Blanchon said.

He noted that in 2005, Whitman-Walker received 51.5 percent of its total revenue from government grants. That same year, the Clinic received 38.4 percent of its revenue from fundraising efforts seeking contributions from the public or businesses. Just 8.7 percent of its revenue came from third-party entities such as patient health insurance carriers or patients covered by Medicaid, Blanchon said.

In 2010, after the Clinic completed its transformation into a health center, 21.1 percent of its revenue came from third-party entities, with many more clients covered by private health insurance or Medicaid. He noted that 31.5 percent of the Clinic’s revenue in 2010 came from its operation of a pharmacy on its premises.

At the same time, its revenue from government grants dropped to 15.8 percent of total revenue, and revenue from private fundraising dropped to 15.8 percent of total revenue.

According to Blanchon, Whitman-Walker continues to rely on private donors and looks forward to its annual D.C. AIDS Walk fundraiser in October. But he said the new structure decreases the Clinic’s reliance on government and private donor revenue at a time when the national recession has forced government agencies and many donors to drastically cut back on giving money to charitable groups like Whitman-Walker.

As a financially stable institution, compared to its near financial collapse five years ago, the Clinic is now taking on more patients in need, especially low-income patients with HIV, Blanchon said. At the same time, it is seeing a growing number of LGBT patients who don’t have HIV but prefer to use Whitman-Walker as their primary care provider, he said.

Data that Blanchon pointed to for 2010 show that the Clinic saw about 13,000 patients that year, 22 percent of whom were HIV positive. Although the total number of HIV patients appears to be dropping, he noted that 60 percent of all medical visits to the Clinic in 2010 were HIV-related, showing that HIV remains the main area of service for the Clinic.

The 2010 data show that 49 percent of all patients self-identify as being LGBT; 69 percent were male, 29 percent female, and 3 percent transgender. In terms of ethnicity, 47 percent were black, 35 percent white, 15 percent Latino, and 3 percent falling into another category.

“We began this journey a little more than five years ago and it has not been without its hardship, sacrifice or public debate,” Blanchon said. “Through it all our board of directors, employees, volunteers, donors and public and private funders remained steadfast to our mission of caring, especially our longstanding commitment to the LGBT community and persons living with HIV/AIDS.”

Lou Chibbaro Jr. has reported on the LGBT civil rights movement and the LGBT community for more than 30 years, beginning as a freelance writer and later as a staff reporter and currently as Senior News Reporter for the Washington Blade. He has chronicled LGBT-related developments as they have touched on a wide range of social, religious, and governmental institutions, including the White House, Congress, the U.S. Supreme Court, the military, local and national law enforcement agencies and the Catholic Church. Chibbaro has reported on LGBT issues and LGBT participation in local and national elections since 1976. He has covered the AIDS epidemic since it first surfaced in the early 1980s. Follow Lou

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