When Gov. M. Jodi Rell signed a $1.3 billion executive order Tuesday to keep government running while a budget deal is negotiated she failed to fund at least four programs which help individuals living with HIV and AIDS.
Shawn M. Lang, director of public policy with the CT AIDS Resource Coalition, said the news came as a surprise to advocates who rely on the state funding to operate programs, such as the needle-exchange program that helps prevent the spread of HIV among drug users.
“It was a very, very poor decision,” Lang said Wednesday afternoon in a phone interview.
“These funds pay for services that are not available through any other state service,” Rev. John P. Merz, executive director of the CT AIDS Resource Coalition, said in a press release. “We’re wondering where the governor wants injecting drug users to dispose of their used syringes, or where people who lose their housing due to these cuts should go to sleep tonight?”
Lang said she doesn’t know how much of a supply the five needle-exchange programs have, but if there’s no funding for the program then nobody will be traveling around in vans distributing and collecting needles from drug users.
She said the more than $450,000 it costs to run this program for an entire year is not going to help the state balance a more than $8 billion budget shortfall.
While the needle-exchange program has been targeted in Rell’s budget proposal for elimination, Lang said the program is scientifically proven to prevent the spread of HIV among drug users. In general, she said the program usually takes in more syringes than it distributes.
And state funding for the program is vital because the federal government does not fund needle-exchange programs, she added.
But funding for more than just needle-exchanges was left out of the governor’s executive order, Lang said. She said there was no funding for HIV prevention programs, emergency housing, and other services.
Jeffrey Beckham spokesman for Rell’s budget office said Wednesday that all four programs usually receive payments at the end of July. He said if the governor needs to sign another executive order in August then all four programs will receive their funding in the first week of August.