The possibility that as many as 30 transgender women with HIV would lose access to life-sustaining services provided by the D.C. group Casa Ruby on March 1 was averted this week when the D.C. Department of Health extended funding for a Casa Ruby case management program.
DOH spokesperson Jasmine Gossett said DOH was unable to renew a grant that funded the Casa Ruby program for the past three years because the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, which provided the funds for the grant, changed its eligibility requirement for the grant.
According to Gossett, HHS discontinued funding for non-medical case management services that Casa Ruby has been providing and limited its grant funds to only medical case management services, which involve work by physicians, nurses and other trained medical professionals.
As a stop gap measure, Gossett said DOH this week awarded Casa Ruby a “transition grant” that will use D.C. funds to enable Casa Ruby to continue its case management services to transgender clients with HIV until at least June of this year.
“The transition grant will run through June and then after that we’ll be working to identify other funding so there should never be a lapse,” Gossett told the Washington Blade. “We value the work that she does so there was never a time when we would let this lapse,” Gossett said, referring to Casa Ruby founder and executive director Ruby Corado.
Corado said she was pleased over the news that funding for the trans case management program would be continued but said she was concerned about the status of another D.C. DOH grant for HIV prevention-related services targeting LGBT youth. Corado said DOH officials told her in October, when that grant was scheduled to expire, that they would renew the grant, saying they were pleased with the work Casa Ruby was doing.
But in what appears to be a misunderstanding, Corado said she interpreted a verbal commitment to renew the grant to give her the go-ahead to continue performing the services, which included paying the salary for two employees conducting the work. On Tuesday, Corado said, a DOH official told her Casa Ruby could not be reimbursed for the services it carried out from October to this month because the grant had not been officially approved and the paperwork completed until this week.
“They said we never gave you a written grant,” Corado said. “I kept the staff and continued with the project.”
DOH spokesperson Gossett told the Blade on Wednesday that DOH is not legally authorized to release funds for a grant that has not been officially completed and approved. She said that legal requirement applies to all grant recipients, not just Casa Ruby.
“They were never told to go ahead with this before the paperwork was completed,” Gossett said.