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Nonprofit asks judge to restore funding

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — A 30-year-old Albuquerque nonprofit that provides services to some 830 HIV-positive clients has asked a judge to restore state funding that ended July 1 when the New Mexico Department of Health canceled a portion of its contract.

New Mexico AIDS Services contends in a petition filed June 22 in 1st Judicial District Court in Santa Fe that unless funding is restored, the nonprofit will be forced to close, resulting in a disruption of services to clients.

“In short, NMAS will be put out of business after 30 years of service and its clients will suffer immeasurable harm,” the petition said.

NMAS also contends that the Health Department violated state and federal laws because it did not use a competitive process to award contracts for services.

Department of Health attorneys responded that state officials decided to end the nonprofit’s $710,000 contract for medical case management services because NMAS “demonstrated its lack of expertise and capability in this area.”

The agency also contends that a “health care” exemption in the state’s purchasing law allowed it to award contracts for medical services without a competitive process, court records show.

Molly Schmidt-Nowara, NMAS’ attorney, said state officials never warned the nonprofit that it risked losing state funding if it didn’t make changes its practices.

“NMAS has never received anything in writing about deficiencies,” Schmidt-Nowara said in a phone interview on Thursday.

Because the state’s action ends the nonprofit’s role providing medical case management, it threatens a separate $1 million a year federal grant NMAS receives to help pay for medical case management services for HIV-positive patients, she said.

Judge Francis Matthew of Santa Fe has yet to rule on the nonprofit’s petition, Schmidt-Nowara said.

Medical case managers oversee a patient’s compliance with medications, treatments, appointments with physicians and other services connected to a patent’s medical care.

New Mexico AIDS Services, founded in 1985, provides medical and nonmedical case management, mental health, substance abuse, transportation, housing and food assistance and other services for HIV-positive patients in Albuquerque, Farmington and Gallup. The nonprofit received $1.86 million under its contract with the Department of Health in the fiscal year that ended June 30, said Jessica Molzen, its chief operating officer.

NMAS had requested $1.86 million for the fiscal year that began July 1, including $710,000 to provide medical case management services, the petition said.

Health Department spokesman Kenny Vigil said the agency increased choices for HIV-positive patients by awarding contracts for medical case management services to three agencies.

The are: University of New Mexico Truman Health Services; Southwest CARE Center; and First Nations Community Healthsource, he said in a written statement.

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