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Wednesday, March 20 , 2019, 5:11 am | Partly Cloudy 53º


State Budget Cuts Hurt Pacific Pride Foundation

The nonprofit reaches out to the community as well as county and city government to help fund its HIV/AIDS services

After having its budget slashed 65 percent, the Pacific Pride Foundation is turning to the community for help in funding its HIV/AIDS services.

Catastrophic cuts from the state level hurt PPF, so it’s counting on as much as it can get from struggling county and city budgets, in addition to community fundraising.

In the past month, California lost $82 million in HIV/AIDS programs funding, which is reminiscent of 1989 levels, PPF Executive Director David Selberg said. While PPF had only 37 HIV/AIDS clients then, it now has 590 to serve with the same amount of funding.

In a town hall Wednesday night at the Louise Lowry Davis Recreation Center, PPF staff members and the community talked about ways to “channel our anger” to find solutions to the cuts, as board chairman Mark Asman said.

PPF already has gone through drastic cuts to staff and services in order to stay afloat, including laying off half of its staff and eliminating oral-swab rapid testing. Now, the only option in the Tri-County area is to go through the Santa Barbara County Public Health Department and have a blood test, which takes two weeks for results vs. 20 to 40 minutes.

“A lot of folks that we’re testing struggle with mental illness, struggle with homelessness, substance abuse, so the ability to come back two weeks later with their slip hinders the ability to do HIV test care and education,” Selberg said.

Eleven of the organization’s 24 staff members were immediately laid off when Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger announced his cuts, in order to avoid the organization going bankrupt, Selberg said.

Janice Griffin, a nurse case manager with 64 clients, was let go, in addition to four case managers, social workers, food pantry workers, volunteer coordinator J.B. Bowlin, therapists and HIV test counselors.

In addition to staff cuts, the food pantry’s food bills have been cut, offices are being downsized and thrice-yearly testing at UCSB have been canceled.

Pacific Pride Foundation Executive Director David Selberg, speaking at Wednesday night's town hall, said that in the past month, California lost $82 million in HIV/AIDS programs funding
Pacific Pride Foundation Executive Director David Selberg, speaking at Wednesday night’s town hall, said that in the past month, California lost $82 million in HIV/AIDS programs funding. (Lara Cooper / Noozhawk photo)

To keep the “bare bones” of core programs going, PPF needs $256,000 from Santa Barbara County, which leaves more than $224,000 to get from grants and donations. Letter-writing campaigns to the county Board of Supervisors, including 2nd District Supervisor Janet Wolf, who was in attendance, are an attempt to get a $50,000 grant from the county’s general fund as well.

Local elected officials in attendance pledged their support to HIV/AIDS programs.

“Whatever we can do as a county to help, we are there, because it is for the health and welfare and the well-being of our great community, and we really have to come together for this,” Wolf said.

The city of Santa Barbara also funds local HIV/AIDS programs. When the City Council reviews its budget next week, a lot of tough decisions will have to be made, Councilwoman Helene Schneider said.

For years, the City Council has given more than $700,000 from its general fund money into human services grants. When most organizations saw that funding get cut by 8.3 percent last year, PPF’s share was not cut, she said.

Councilman Das Williams said the state cuts were unacceptable. “There will be people that will die because of this,” he said. “California has sunk to a level of lack of humanity and civilization. Budgets are a statement of our morality.” 

Since most state AIDS funding goes to larger cities (San Francisco, Los Angeles and San Diego), Selberg got eight midsize counties to do major letter writing and advocating to both the state Office of AIDS and Health and Human Services.

“Three weeks ago, we weren’t even on their radar,” he said. “Now, we’re at least getting the table scraps of 35 percent.”

Ventura’s AIDS programs are closed, and San Luis Obispo’s are in danger of going the same way, he said.

Asman started the meeting by explaining “how pissed off” he was, but said he would channel his anger into efforts to make this year’s AIDS Walk the biggest one yet.

At the meeting, PPF supporters outlined a number of ways in which community members can help support the programs. Organizers of the Oct. 3 AIDS Walk hope to raise $160,000, more than twice the amount it raised last year. Community members can join teams, pledge or volunteer to help the cause.

Another upcoming fundraising event is a rummage sale at 334 E. Arrellaga St. this weekend, for which donations and volunteers are still needed.

Since food bills have been cut, food, personal-care items and household items can be donated to either the Santa Maria or Santa Barbara PPF offices. Desperately needed items include juice, sports drinks, sugar, bar soap, toothbrushes and toothpaste, mouthwash, laundry soap and paper towels.

Anyone who shops at Ralphs or Vons can register their cards online to have a percentage of purchases go to PPF, which brings in about $600 a year now and is no extra cost for shoppers.

As an incentive to fundraisers, some donors and corporations have offered large amounts of money if PPF can match them in fundraising efforts.

PPF also offers many services to the LGBT community, including education, counseling and discussion groups.

Noozhawk staff writer Giana Magnoli can be reached at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address).

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