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CDPH Terminates Contract to Run AIDS/HIV Program After Less Than One Year

Manny Otiko/ California Black Media | 3/9/2017, midnight

Statewide--Questions are being raised about the California Department of Public Health (CDPH)'s management of the AIDS Drug Assistance Program (ADAP.) ADAP provides assistance to AIDS/HIV patients who are uninsured or underinsured enabling them to have access to life-saving medication. The program serves about 30,000 Californians.

According to a CDPH press release, the agency decided to terminate the contract with A.J. Boggs to oversee ADAP. California Black Media first reported on CDPH's decision to award the contract to manage ADAP to A.J. Boggs last summer. The contract had been served by Ramsell Corp., a black-owned Oakland firm for several years. But the contract was awarded to A.J. Boggs, an out-of-state company. The contract lasted less than a year and was terminated effective March 31.

According to CDPH, the contract was terminated for "breach of contract." The agency also cited reasons such as "failure to provide critical information," and an inability to "provide enrollment workers and clients access to the enrollment portals." According to a report in the San Francisco Chronicle, patients also complained of having trouble enrolling in the program. Caseworkers said the enrollment process went from about 30 minutes to more than three hours. Eventually, complaints reached elected officials. In December, State Sen. Scott D. Wiener (D-San Francisco,) wrote a critical letter to CDPH demanding action.

"I am alarmed to learn about significant problems that have resulted from the transition to three new contractors as well of the implementation of a new eligibility and enrollment system," said Wiener in the letter.

Eric Flowers, president, and CEO of Ramsell Corp. said he wasn't surprised that the previous company had issues, but he was surprised at how short the contract lasted.

He said the decision to award the contract to A.J. Boggs was strange, especially considering his company's long-standing relationship with CDHP.

"We have been doing it (servicing ADAP) for 19 years," he said.

According to Flowers, there were problems with A.J. Boggs during the bidding process. He said they appeared not to have certain systems in place during the bidding process, but they were still awarded the contract. The winning bid was also $9 million more than Ramsell's bid. Flowers said the bidding process was so problematic; he requested it to be started over again, but the department did not do that. However, CDPH officials stated that they needed to continue with the contract to ensure uninterrupted service. Patients noticed the difference with the new provider. One patient described the new process as "a nightmare."

"They (CDPH) took someone they knew that was not qualified," he said.

However, Flowers said that his company is still open to taking over the ADAP program.

"My concern has always been about making sure the program was reliable and stable," said Flowers.

However, Aubry Stone, president of the California Black Chamber of Commerce and board member of the Department of General Services' Small Business Advisory Council, says CDPH's handling of ADAP needs further investigation.

"Learning more about the contact change from the Ramsell Corporation to the new agency that did not last a year makes me think that there should be a complete and full investigation on the contract procedure of CDPH," said Stone. "In this case, the state disrupted a business that was doing a good job then made a decision to pay more to an out-of-state company that failed to live up to the contract. We need transparency and answers on what happened with this contract."