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Bailey-Boushay funding on the brink
Bailey-Boushay funding on the brink
by Mike Andrew - SGN Staff Writer

Funding for Bailey-Boushay House remains in doubt as clients and caregivers await the announcement of the state Senate's 2009-2011 budget package on Monday.

"We're anxious. This is a big, big deal for us," Bailey-Boushay Executive Director Brian Knowles told SGN. "We're fortunate that [Senator] Ed Murray has been such an advocate for us. And [Representative] Jamie [Pedersen] has been terrific. His partner is on our board."

A Seattle institution since 1992, Bailey-Boushay was the first skilled nursing facility in the country dedicated specifically to the care of people with HIV/AIDS. Currently it operates a 35-bed inpatient nursing home facility and an Adult Day Health program serving 200 outpatients who need day-to-day assistance, but not 'round-the-clock care.

Bailey-Boushay's outpatient program is funded largely by contracts with the state of Washington, and is at risk because of the state's fiscal crisis. $1.1 million of the program's total $1.8 million budget comes from state funds.

Among other services, Bailey-Boushay provides outpatients with a medication management program with a 97% adherence rate, compared to less than 50 % adherence in similar populations. The highly successful program combines group and individual counseling, chemical dependency counseling, occupational and physical therapy, and meals and nutritional counseling.

"Our friends in the legislature are so impressed by our outcomes," Knowles says, "we could also be providing services for ALS [Lou Gehrig's Disease], end of life cancer, mental health problems. I'm excited about that."

Bailey-Boushay's outpatient program was included in the budget proposed by Gov. Christine Gregoire in December 2008, but the governor's budget was based on an anticipated revenue shortfall of $6 billion. It now appears that the total shortfall will approach $9 billion. In fact, the state of Washington ranks among the top 10 states in the magnitude of its budget shortfall.

While Gregoire recommended $3.5 billion in budget cuts, including $990 million in cuts to state healthcare services, the legislature is expected to cut even more in an effort to cope with the state's impending fiscal catastrophe. Washington will receive somewhat more than $2 billion in federal stimulus money for healthcare, but that will be dedicated funding for the state's Medicaid program.

Bailey-Boushay's inpatient program is also expecting budget cuts from the state this year, and the facility recently learned it would no longer be a recipient of United Way funding. Unlike the outpatient program, however, it is not considered at risk of closing.

"But it gets much more complicated," Knowles told SGN. "Our funding is like a house of cards. If the funding for outpatient services goes, even if we retain our nursing home funding, how do we support this building? We can shoulder nursing home cuts, but there's no way we can shoulder outpatient cuts."

Legislative insiders were unwilling to predict whether Bailey-Boushay's funding would be spared. When contacted by SGN, the office of Senate Ways and Means Committee chair Margarita Prentice (D-11) declined to comment. "We're announcing the budget on Monday at 10:30 a.m.," her spokesperson said.

House Ways and Means chair Kelli Linville (D-42) was in a budget meeting and not available for comment when called, but a staffer told SGN, "I don't know when we'll complete our work on the budget, and I can't speak for her on what will be in it."

Bailey-Boushay's funding problem is compounded by an unprecedented drop in private donations. Normally Bailey-Boushay would expect donations of $1 million per year, but last year donors gave only $650,000, the lowest amount in the agency's 16-year history.

Bailey-Boushay House has been managed by Virginia Mason Hospital since 2007. Virginia Mason Vice President Kathleen Paul described retention of Bailey-Boushay's state funding as "the number-one policy goal for Virginia Mason this year."

Virginia Mason did not commit to directly funding Bailey-Boushay programs if state funding does not materialize, however. Virginia Mason's Media Relations Manager Alisha Mark told SGN, "We'd have to look at that [direct funding by Virginia Mason], but we don't have plans to do it."

"Virginia Mason already gives us $500,000 a year in cash and in-kind services," Knowles explained. "They're the largest private contributor to AIDS care. Not many people know that. The question is, can they make up funding at this level?"

Bailey-Boushay clients and supporters have been using innovative grassroots advocacy to keep their funding intact, including a Facebook page and Craigslist postings. In addition, more than 60 clients and supporters traveled to Olympia to lobby legislators for continued funding.

"We've been working for the past three months with the Senate," Knowles said. "When the governor cut us from her original budget, people on her staff worked with us to get funding back in. No matter what, we'll do everything we can to make sure the services continue."

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