Howard Brown Health Center in danger of closing

Fri. November 5, 2010 3:55 PM by Kevin Wayne

HBHC asks for community's help

Chicago, IL - Howard Brown Health Center (HBHC), a longtime medical care provider servicing Chicago's gay and lesbian community since 1974, says it faces a financial crisis that could leave thousands without medical care.

HBHC says it must raise $500,000 over 50 days and an additional $500,000 next year or risk shutting its doors for good. The 36 year-old center is launching a public appeal for Lifeline support.

During a news conference Thursday at the Center's facility in Lakeview, Jamal Edwards, President and CEO of Howard Brown and Board Chairman Mark Andrews, announced that a restated audit has revealed a deep financial deficit—the result of previous mismanagement of grant funds.

Trouble began for HBHC in early 2010 when Chief Executive Officer Michael Cook and Chief Financial Officer Mark Joslyn were dismissed over mismanagement of $3 million dollars in federal funds associated with a decades-long AIDS study. Amid the turmoil, the center named Edwards, a Chicago attorney, as CEO in June.

The research grant funding was tied to the Multicenter AIDS Cohort Study, or MACS, an ongoing study of both HIV positive and HIV negative men conducted by HBHC and Northwestern University.

Howard Brown came under a federal investigation in April and an internal investigation by the Center's Board revealed grant money was most-likely being used to cover operating expenses.

When HBHC voluntarily transferred its lead agency status to Northwestern University, a partner in the MACS research, it had to give the University $539,000 to make-up for the misused federal funds, which created a larger deficit in the Center's operating budget.

"Our team is deeply committed to resolving the effects of past mismanagement and preserving the community lifeline that Howard Brown provides," said Edwards. "But to do so we need a lifeline from the community. We know that we are asking a lot from our supporters, because we're asking the community to trust and support Howard Brown on the heels of past financial mismanagement. Let me assure you that this is a new day here, and the new executive team is committed to saving Howard Brown."

Howard Brown is one of the country's largest lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgendered health care organizations, and serves over 6,000 individuals, many of whom live with HIV/AIDS. Through the Broadway Youth Center, HBHC, reaches 5,000 LGBTQ teens.

HBHC is asking the community to participate in a "Lifeline Appeal" by providing direct donations. Donations to the Lifeline Appeal may be made directly on the Center's website, or call 773-388-1600.