The New Haven Health Department submitted a $5.98 million grant request for Ryan White federal funding Wednesday to treat impoverished and low-income residents of New Haven with HIV or AIDS.

New Haven receives federal funding through the Ryan White Comprehensive AIDS Resources Emergency Act, which distributes funds based on the number of AIDS cases in a given area. In 2017, New Haven received $5.697 million through the Ryan White CARE Act. The largest percentage of funds from the 2018 grant will be allocated to medical case management, mental health services and outpatient and ambulatory health services in New Haven and Fairfield County, according to Tom Butcher, project director of HIV services at the New Haven Health Department.

In New Haven and Fairfield, 6,300 people have been diagnosed with AIDS, 32 percent of whom are in New Haven, Butcher said. Approximately 68 percent of those treated identified as black or Latino, he said. Butcher added that mental health services are critical for AIDS patients and their families.

“What we see in this world of HIV/AIDS is that there’s a lot of shame and stigma … and that people often come along with … a history of substance use and a mental health diagnosis,” Butcher said. “We’re working with shame, stigma, cultural barriers and racism, so mental health support is key.”

Federal funding determined by the number of new diagnoses in a given area is the main base of funding for HIV services in New Haven. The Ryan White grant would supplement those funds, Butcher said.

He added that the city’s federal funding has decreased as the number of AIDS diagnoses has declined. But, he said, the number of people in New Haven living with AIDS has not decreased.

“We have to apply for supplemental funding every year because our prevention of AIDS is good,” Butcher said.

Chris Cole, executive director of the Aids Project New Haven, said his organization focuses on providing preventative and essential care services for people living with HIV or AIDS in Greater New Haven. The Aids Project, the only community-based AIDS service in the city, receives funding from Ryan White grant money, according to Cole. He said the Ryan White CARE Act provides core funding for essential support services that go to people in need.

Cole said people from households earning up to 300 percent of the poverty level are eligible to receive funding through the act.

The AIDS Project’s services are aimed at providing patients with long-term treatment, as patients who do not receive treatment have a much lower life expectancy and much less positive health outcomes, Cole said. He added that medicine administered by the project through Ryan White CARE Act funding helps patients to become noninfectious, so the funding contributes to the health of the community in general. Without the Ryan White funding, he said, the people who need care would not be treated.

Cole also serves as the co-chair of New Haven’s Ryan White Planning Council, which organizes the administration and distribution of the federal funding that the New Haven and Fairfield counties are entitled to under the Ryan White CARE Act.

Joanna Montgomery, chief clinical officer for Apex Community Care, which handles AIDS treatment for the Greater Danbury area, said the group’s funding for preventative methods is covered by the Ryan White CARE Act.

Montgomery told the News that she primarily assesses the priority of each service and the percentage of funds that should be allocated to each support service the Department of Health provides for New Haven and Fairfield residents.

Montgomery said her committee examines other resources given to the area, like Medicaid, to decide which areas of care should be prioritized.

However, Montgomery said that although the Health Department applied for $5.98 million in federal funding for the 2018–19 fiscal year, it is not guaranteed to receive that amount of money. Usually, she said, the department receives $5.5 million from the federal government in grant money every year.

Christina Carrafiell | christina carrafiell@yale.edu