Abuse? Fraud? Negligence? Corruption? Bias?

There really doesn’t seem to be any other way to explain what is happening inside the California Department of Public Health’s AIDS Drug Assistance Program (ADAP) when it recently decided to award a contract to an out-of-state company whose price tag of $9 million more than the next bidder, an Oakland based minority owned business who has been running this program for the past 19 years.

CDPH is now charging ahead to try to meet a highly questionable July 1 deadline for transitioning extremely complex operations to new companies. Failure for a smooth switch will put vulnerable AIDS/HIV patients at risk, many of them are people of color.

So why the rush? Why the change?

Since 1997, Ramsell Corp., an Oakland based, African American owned company has been successfully providing health services to California AIDS/HIV patients who are uninsured or underinsured in order for them to have access to lifesaving medication.

Earlier this year, when the AIDS/HIV enrollment, insurance and pharmacy programs were put out to bid by the California Department of Public Health (CDPH), Ramsell submitted its bid as it has done for decades. But when Ramsell learned the bids were awarded to two out-of-state firms, it reviewed all the bids and noticed that CDPH staff had made significant errors when tabulating the points and pricing of the bids. Had these errors been corrected, Ramsell would have been the successful bidder.

When the CDPH was notified of the errors, they promptly invalidated the bids. But soon thereafter, they turned around and still awarded the contract to A.J. Boggs & Co. of Michigan, under the guise of ensuring “uninterrupted service.”

Rightfully so, Ramsell has filed lawsuits in Sacramento County Superior Court over this questionable bid process.

What was the rush to give this out of state firm the contract, especially when it’s $9 million more than the current provider, a successful minority-owned, California-based company?

Equally troubling:

In a letter to the California Department of Public Health, Access Support Network of San Luis Obispo and Monterey Counties, AIDS Project Los Angeles, Los Angeles LGBT Center, Project Inform, San Francisco AIDS Foundation and San Francisco Department of Public Health stated:

“We are concerned that the amount of time that has been allotted for system beta testing and enrollment worker training is not adequate. The Office of AIDS has notified us that the new system is still being developed, beta testing has not yet begun, and enrollment worker training will not begin until just weeks before the July 1st transition.

“Further, the system is transitioning from one to three contractors which will require additional coordination to effectively serve clients. In order to ensure a seamless transition, we believe additional time is necessary to adequately beta test the new system, train enrollment workers, and ensure adequate time for feedback on what is working properly and what needs to be improved.”

So what’s really going on, CDPH?

Why did you award the contract to an out of state company with a price tag that is an astronomical $9 million than your current provider?

Why not extend the transition period to allow for the Sacramento County Superior Court to rule on the legality of the last bidding process?

Why put patients at risk?

There are a lot of serious, unanswered questions, and we hope that our legislative leaders and Governor can intervene to prevent this obvious train wreck before it happens. They need to pick up the phone and add get to the bottom of what seems to be extremely troubling, irresponsible and questionable actions by those running CDPH’s HIV/AIDS programs.

Familias Unidas de California provides awareness and seeks to improve wellness in our Latino community, by focusing on issues of poverty, immigration reform, health care, and quality education.