HIV Hospice Program Saved

The Department of Public Health and City Hall have stepped in to save Westside Community Services' HIV programs.

Mish house (Courtesy of Noehill)

Last month, an SF Weekly exclusive report detailed the impending closure of HIV home-care programs operated by a 50-year-old mental health nonprofit called Westside Community Services. Known to many locals only by its residence at a historic Victorian on Oak Street known as the Mish House, Westside’s AIDS case management and home-care program are crucial providers of services to HIV-positive patients too impaired to leave their homes.  

Those services were scheduled to lose their funding and come to a complete halt on Aug 31.

We’ve never been happier to issue an update.

In the days following the publication of our report, Westside Community Services received a significant increase in funding. Thanks to the lobbying efforts of the San Francisco Department of Public Health and District 8 supervisor Jeff Sheehy, Westside’s critical HIV-patient support programs will not only survive but expand in the year to come.

“Westside HIV/AIDS programs will continue to provide services because of a rate increase,” Westside Community Services CEO Dr. Mary Ann Jones says. “Westside will receive additional funding, and more importantly, our clients will receive more services.”

According to documents obtained by SF Weekly, Westside Community Services’ budget for average monthly client care will increase by more than 50 percent with the additional funding.

“We are very grateful to Barbara Garcia, director of SFDPH and Bill Blum, HIV health-services director, San Francisco Department of Public Health for advocating on behalf of our agency and staff to ensure that we would receive an increase in reimbursement rates for AIDS case management services retroactive to July 1, 2017,” Jones says.

Those reimbursement rates were scheduled to expire, and Westside’s HIV clients were notified at the beginning of August.

“Almost immediately, I heard from the community,” Sheehy says. “It was very alarming to patients and clients.”

Westside’s HIV program is located outside Sheehy’s district. But as San Francisco’s first openly HIV-positive supervisor, Sheehy was inclined to work with patients, the Department of Public Health, and the Service Employees International Union to lobby the state to provide additional funding for Westside’s HIV programs.

“All of us working together were able to get the changes at the state to rescue Westside,” Sheehy says. “The budget that’s just moved forward includes the increase in state reimbursement rates in a financially sustainable fashion.”

The additional funding did not come from the local Department of Public Health or Sheehy’s office, but from MediCal, whose previous level of funding was not enough to cover Westside’s continued HIV services. But an increase in Westside’s MediCal reimbursement rate, combined with the current funding that Westside does receive from City Hall, effectively saved these HIV programs.

Westside Community Services delivers more than just HIV services: They offer a range of mental health services, infant care, substance abuse services, and more — primarily to African-Americans, veterans, and the unemployed. But its HIV-care and case-management programs, which have been around for more than 30 years, got saved at the 11th hour.

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