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COUNTY TO STUDY AIDS FUNDING : CHANGE SOUGHT TO HELP CLINIC.

Byline: David Bloom Daily News Staff Writer

The Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors agreed Tuesday to study a change in the way AIDS care is funded after protesters argued that the current system could force the closure of a popular Van Nuys clinic.

The board agreed to the study after 200 supporters of the AIDS Healthcare Foundation packed the meeting, arguing that county inaction could deny life-prolonging treatment to 500 regular patients at the Van Nuys Boulevard center.

Many of the roughly 35 speakers who backed the changes said the center's willingness to try innovative and experimental treatments has kept them alive after the approaches by other public and private facilities failed.

``I was on the edge of death a year ago with full-blown AIDS,'' said Bruce Teague, 42, of Valley Village. ``But I'm 40 pounds heavier now because these people were able to find some new solutions.''

The crowd of AHF supporters frequently interrupted the meeting with cheers, hoots and applause, and at one point, police had to remove a man after he repeatedly shouted questions at Supervisor Yvonne Brathwaite Burke.

AHF has threatened to close its Van Nuys clinic next month because its officials say county funding has remained flat at $5.6 million a year, while the cost of providing life-saving new treatments has skyrocketed.

Foundation President Michael Weinstein urged the board to order the creation of fee-for-service payments for AIDS care providers instead of a block grant that carries no incentive for efficient or expanded service.

By receiving money for the service it provides, instead of a lump sum, Weinstein believes the center's income might better offset its costs.

``Patients have been voting with their feet,'' said Weinstein, whose organization treats 5,000 HIV-positive people a year, the most of any private provider in the county. ``The money should follow the patients.''

Supervisor Zev Yaroslavsky, who represents the Van Nuys area, submitted a motion ordering Health Services Director Mark Finucane to return in two weeks with a report explaining how a fee-for-service payment system for AIDS care would work.

The motion also requires health officials to develop a contingency plan to provide AIDS care in the San Fernando Valley if the AHF clinic closes, to assess AHF's financial stability and study the implications of new treatments on AIDS programs and funding.

Yaroslavsky criticized Weinstein for overspending, saying the county is struggling to stay within its budget and expects its contractors to do the same, rather than relying on a last-minute blitz of protests and advertising to force supervisors to find bailout money.

``If we can mitigate their problems, we should do it,'' Yaroslavsky said. ``I'm not asking (Health Services Department officials) to bail out AHF. I'm not asking you to turn your back on them either.''

Weinstein acknowledged the agency has had financial problems exacerbated by its decision to spend money on the assumption that it would continue to receive substantial annual increases.

After the meeting, Weinstein said the group ``got a lot of what we wanted. I'd call it a victory.''

But he said he would ``have to see what it means,'' before saying definitively whether he could keep the Van Nuys clinic open. The foundation closed an Inglewood clinic this spring, but operates three others in Hollywood and West Hollywood, as well as hospices and other facilities.
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Copyright 1996, Gale Group. All rights reserved. Gale Group is a Thomson Corporation Company.

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Publication:Daily News (Los Angeles, CA)
Date:Aug 21, 1996
Words:554
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