NOW that Nassau and Suffolk Counties have won their lawsuit to
restore full federal financing for helping those with AIDS and
the H.I.V. infection, health and social service officials say
they hope to boost medical and support services to Long Island
An April 25 ruling by the United States Court of Appeals for the
Second District in the counties' lawsuit against the United
States Department of Health and Human Services restored what the
court called "drastic and unauthorized" cuts to vital services
for Long Islanders with AIDS and H.I.V. In 2006, Long Island
received $6.1 million, but since March 1, 2007, when the region
was reclassified by the Treatment Modernization Act of 2006, it
lost $1.3 million in financing, as well as social support
Legislators and advocates for people with AIDS are working to
figure out how much the region will get and how it can be spent.
The first priority is money for medical services, said
Christopher Hahn, president and chief executive of United Way of
Long Island. It administers the money, to 13 local agencies.
"Our next step is to work with Congress to change the legislation
in order to allow us to provide support services such as child
care, housing assistance, transportation, legal help and
complementary therapies like acupuncture," Mr. Hahn said.
Dan Aug, a spokesman for Suffolk County, said a number of
categories would be designated for the restored money. Among them
are mental health, oral health care, substance abuse outpatient
treatment, nutritional therapy, health insurance, medical
transportation and legal services, he said.
Atop the wish list of Greg Noone, program director of the AIDS
advocacy organization Thursday's Child of Long Island, is
restoring the Emergency Financial Assistance program, which was
dissolved in February 2007 because of the new legislation. The
agency lost almost $300,000 in contracts for support services for
Long Islanders with AIDS and H.I.V.
"Emergency financial assistance is the single most requested
service," said Mr. Noone, who added that 80 percent of his
group's clients lived on a fixed income or were working poor.
"Under this program, we were able to provide them with extra food
vouchers, assistance with their utilities and rental assistance."
But while he called the latest court ruling a sweet victory, Mr.
Noone is not celebrating, because of restrictions that require a
direct medical need for reimbursement of services. "Unless we
change the law, even if we get the extra funding, the odds are
better than 50-50 that we won't be allowed to spend it," he said.
Under the 2006 law, a region is designated an Eligible
Metropolitan Area when it meets one of two criteria: having at
least 3,000 people living with AIDS, or 2,000 new cases reported
during the last five years. Last year, in its interpretation of
the law, the United States District Court in Mineola ruled that
Long Island did not meet both criteria and was not eligible for
some of the funding.
But the court overturned that decision, saying Long Island was
eligible if it met one of the two criteria, and it did. There are
more than 5,000 people with AIDS on Long Island, Mr. Noone and
Mr. Hahn said. Between 2001 and 2005, 1,505 new cases were
diagnosed in Nassau and Suffolk.