August 15, 2010; Source: Washington Post | As of 15 months ago, Washington D.C.’s Whitman-Walker Clinic, one of the nation’s most respected nonprofit clinics serving people with HIV and AIDS, was close to going under.  But recent reports tell a different story.

Established in 1978, Whitman-Walker had run $4 million deficits in 2007 and 2008. City Council member, David Catania, has been on the clinic’s case about its troubled finances and the fear that it was “running away from its core constituency—gay men and lesbians.”  All the signs locally suggested this program was ready to collapse, but the reports about FY2009 show that the situation has been reversed.  The fiscal year looks like it will show a surplus of $360,000. And despite its broader mission, 60 percent of patient visits in 2009 dealt with HIV-related health issues.

Although charitable donations have waned during the recession, Whitman-Walker’s income from Medicaid, Medicare, and private insurance more than doubled between 2007 and 2009.  What happened to right this ship?  The clinic became an official community health center, providing primary care, dental care, and mental health care to patients regardless of HIV status.  That opened it up to federal grant assistance and access to Medicaid funds, including an expansion of Medicaid coverage that will accompany federal health care reform in 2014.

This Washington Post editorial isn’t clear on the specifics, but it looks as though stimulus money could have also provided a financial infusion to help turn the clinic around. If so, this is one more testament to the impact of the stimulus in supporting critical community services and preserving jobs and incomes.—Rick Cohen