Social Innovation Fund Reaches One Rural Health Initiative in Alabama

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August 13, 2011; Source: Montgomery Advertiser | We at NPQ have repeatedly expressed concerns about how hard it is for small, rural nonprofits to get their hands on federal Social Innovation Fund (SIF) dollars. Among SIF re-granters, it looks like health-related foundations and organizations are doing the most outreach to potential rural subgrantees. 

One example is the Montgomery AIDS Outreach (MAO) in Alabama. MAO received one of 10 SIF grants via the Washington, D.C.-based organization AIDS United to fund its Access to Care (A2C) initiative. According to the Advertiser, A2C “allows patients in the state’s rural areas to receive counseling, or ‘telemedicine,’ via web-based video communication. They will interact with MAO doctors and nurses at satellite clinics, where the health care professionals can diagnose problems and provide recommendations for treatment.” The initiative will improve health-care access in 47 of Alabama’s 67 counties.

AIDS United received $3.6 million from the SIF, which it will have to match dollar-for-dollar. Of that amount, it gave Montgomery AIDS Outreach $230,000, which MAO will also have to match. To help reach that goal, A2C’s coordinator, Will Rutland, is participating in a triathlon to raise $10,000 for communications equipment for one of the initiative’s rural clinics.

While it is admirable that AIDS United directed SIF dollars to MAO for rural telemedicine support for people with HIV, the fact that the initiative’s coordinator has to run a triathlon to raise matching funds shows how hard rural groups have to work to scrounge up the money required for them to find seats at the SIF table.—Rick Cohen