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Rhode Island Cuts Funding To AIDS Group

The state has cut more than one million dollars to a nonprofit that helps people diagnosed with HIV and AIDS. The group has been forced to make some changes.

On a street corner in Providence’s Hope neighborhood, there’s this squat white house. From the outside, it looks like any old house. Blends in with the rest of the block.

But walk inside, and you find an assisted living facility run by AIDS Care Ocean State. They call it the Sunrise House. Ten people live here, all diagnosed with HIV or AIDS. Residents can access medical care, exercise classes and social events.

But after cuts in state funding, the nonprofit is scaling back some of its programming here. And some staff have been laid off. Darlene Grassia runs Sunrise House. She’s currently covering two full-time jobs herself. Director and nurse. I asked her how she reacted to news that the state was cutting a million dollars in funding.

"I was like, 'How do they make these decisions? What is it based on? Do the people who make these decisions?' " Grassia said. "It's hard to understand how people can think it's OK to cut funding for something so important."

In a statement, Rhode Island’s office of Health and Human Services says there’s just less money to go around in this year’s budget. A lot of the funding for these programs comes from drug rebates. And that rebate money has decreased.

Grassia says residents in her care are some of the state’s most vulnerable. They’re poor. Many don’t have a network of friends and family to fall back on. A lot of them struggle with mental health issues. With all those factors, the costs do add up.

"If you want to provide good consistent care, it's very expensive," she said. "But we're saving people."

Grassia says that, if it weren’t for Sunrise House, a lot of these people would be at high risk of becoming homeless, and their health might suffer. Out on the street, and without a network, they’d be more likely to commit crimes. And she adds, you know what else is expensive? Putting more people in jail.

Sunrise House in Providence.
Sunrise House in Providence.