Ohio says Cincinnati can’t administer STD grants
CINCINNATI (AP) — The Cincinnati Health Department has lost control of nearly $737,000 in annual grant money for curbing sexually transmitted diseases because the state says it has done a poor job of prevention and administration.
The city health department has received grants for those programs for decades, but the 2012 grants were awarded to the Public Health Department of Dayton and Montgomery County with the stipulation that 90 percent of it goes to Hamilton County, which includes Cincinnati, state health department officials said Friday.
The state’s decision to make the change was based on Cincinnati failing to get passing scores on reviews of its grant applications, The Cincinnati Enquirer reported.
The city was faulted for various things, including having no improvement plan to reduce STDs and measure whether efforts were succeeding, Tessie Pollock, a spokeswoman for the Ohio Department of Health, said Friday. She said scoring is only part of the review.
State reviewers also noted that the city’s applications included too little detail about target populations, too little explanation on how case monitoring could improve and no details about how a social media campaign would work this year.
The city was such a poor steward of the money that there wasn’t a way to justify using taxpayer dollars to put money back into the hands of the department, said William McHugh, the Ohio Department of Health’s division of prevention chief.
“It’s gotten so bad in the last few years we had no choice but to find a new partner to address the problem,” McHugh said.
Cincinnati Health Commissioner Noble Maseru has disputed nearly everything in the review, pledging to fight the grant loss that McHugh has said is final. Department spokesman Rocky Merz said the city’s legal department is reviewing the denial and that city officials believe the grant loss will have a negative impact on public health.
“Our department is doing great work,” Maseru said in a statement Friday. “The state has placed us in an extremely difficult situation.”
Cincinnati says it will use city money to run an STD treatment clinic, but state officials said Friday that they could not verify that. Hamilton County health workers will do follow-up work that includes investigating the source of STD outbreaks, alerting people who might be infected, and educating people about protecting themselves.
The changes come in the wake of a 2011 report ranking Hamilton County 12th nationwide in the number of syphilis cases and third when population is taken into account, The Enquirer reported.
Merz said Friday that the department is projecting a 10 percent decrease for 2011 in the number of syphilis cases in the county, compared with 2010.
The city department argues that faulty addition gave Cincinnati a failing score of 69 percent instead of 71 percent on the STD portion, with 70 percent needed to pass. The city had a failing score of 53 on its work on the HIV grant.
Maseru said in a Nov. 10 letter that the state has refused to fix wrong computations and that the STD prevention program isn’t deficient in comparison to others in the state. He also argued that there is inconsistency in scoring grant recipients.
State officials say the grants have to work together to provide care, but State Sen. Eric Kearney, D-Cincinnati, has asked the state to explain why the city couldn’t keep the STD grant without the HIV one.
“I wouldn’t say that it’s over,” Kearney said.