API Wellness Boasts Broad Scope
The name of the Asian and Pacific Islander Wellness Center might imply a narrow focus, but Executive Director Lance Toma said that since the agency’s start 25 years ago, the nonprofit has never been meant just for Asians and Pacific Islanders.
Toma said that San Francisco-based nonprofit, which offers HIV testing, primary health care, advocacy, and other services, works to help people of all sexual orientations, gender identities, races and ethnicities, and immigration status.
"We’ve always served clients in communities beyond Asians and Pacific Islanders," said Toma. "What makes me proud is that in this point in time, we are providing services to all our communities in San Francisco, and I’m proud that API Wellness Center can demonstrate the kind of bold leadership that our communities deserve."
API Wellness Center will mark its anniversary with a benefit next week.
The Asian AIDS Project was established in 1987 within Asian American Recovery Services. According to API Wellness Center’s website, AAP is the first HIV/AIDS service organization to specifically target Asians and Pacific Islanders in North America with outreach and HIV/AIDS prevention education.
In 1996, API Wellness Center was formed out of the merger of the Asian AIDS Project and Living Well Project. Toma, who’s 42 and joined the agency’s staff in 2000, became executive director in 2006.
Recently, the nonprofit, which has 2,000 to 3,000 unduplicated clients and a current budget of $3.9 million, has seen more change. In March 2011, its Wellness Clinic opened. The program provides primary health care and other services free-of-charge for low income, uninsured or under-insured San Franciscans who wouldn’t otherwise have access to health care.
Earlier this year, many clients who had received care through the nonprofit Tenderloin Health, which had served some of the city’s poorest residents, were transferred to API Wellness Center. Tenderloin Health shut down due to funding problems.
The expansion has presented his agency’s biggest challenge, but Toma said, "It’s a good challenge."
He said, "It’s a lot of work to do to ensure we can continue all the programs" and ensure that "we’re aligned with all the reform that’s happening with respect to health care."
Among Toma’s concerns is the national Affordable Care Act.
"With respect to HIV and other marginalized communities, there’s still a lot of work to be done about how health care reform truly includes all of our communities in our country," he said.
He said those groups include people of color, LGBTs, immigrants, and people living with HIV.
Though the API Wellness has worked to reach out to people in a variety of demographics, the nonprofit still offers comfort to members of the Asian community.
Edwin Mah, who’s 62 and is living with AIDS, is a client of the nonprofit who serves on its consumer advocate board. He said the API Wellness Center helps him with psychotherapy and a monthly social where he learns about new developments in treatment and other topics.
"I still feel like kind of an outsider in the gay community," Mah said, and he’s encountered situations where he is "the only Asian in the room." For him, he said, the center has become a "close-knit community."
Toma said that he works closely with his nonprofit’s board to oversee finances. According to the nonprofit’s estimates, for the 2011-12 fiscal year, which ended March 31, total revenue and expenses were both $3.4 million. Program service costs accounted for about 80 percent of the agency’s expenses. The agency has no debt, and about $450,000 in reserves.
But API Wellness Center and other organizations in San Francisco are facing a shortfall in federal funding from Ryan White HIV/AIDS Treatment Modernization Act and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
He said that from what he can tell, his and other agencies would face a cut of "upwards to a 20 percent decrease" in funds.
For API Wellness Center, that could translate to a loss of up to $340,000 in funds for the city’s fiscal year, which begins July 1.
Some city officials have expressed determination to preserve funding, as did Toma.
But if the 20 percent reductions do come, staff cuts would be part of his savings strategy, and program cuts would also have to be considered, he said.
Toma’s salary for the 2011-12 fiscal year was $111,000. He said that the budget just passed by the board includes "a modest surplus," and includes an average of a 2 percent salary increase for all staff. The plans are still being finalized, but for Toma, the raise would mean an increase of about $2,000 to $3,000.
Asked if he’d take a salary cut if the 20 percent reduction comes, Toma said, "I would explore all options. I’ve done that in the past, and so all options would be on the table."
Financial records provided by API Wellness Center show the agency has also experienced troubles related to billing, an area that’s been problematic for other nonprofits.
An audit of API Wellness Center that covers the 2010-11 fiscal year mentioned problems that occurred after the nonprofit’s controller left in October 2010. A November 2011 letter to APIWC from the CPA firm Le, Ho and Company, LLP says, "We encountered no significant difficulties in dealing with management in performing and completing our audit," but the letter says that after the controller’s departure "the interim replacements could not handle the record keeping for the organization. Therefore, there was no reliable financial reporting after the controller left, and our audit was prolonged because of the poor condition of the accounting records." Documents included with the audit also say, "Billings were not done timely and it caused cash flow problems."
The accounting firm’s letter says, "All material misstatements detected as a result of audit procedures were corrected by management."
In an interview, Toma said that he delayed the billing "in order to bring in the right level of leadership for the organization" and "I don’t think we were in danger."
In emailed comments provided by agency spokeswoman Stephanie Goss, Toma said the billing delay issues were corrected by hiring current Director of Finance and Administration Yvonne Watson "and having skilled leadership in our finance area to fully comply with all accounting standards." Watson was brought in as a consultant in August 2011 and hired full time in October.
Toma added that "a separate issue" is "the fact that we are often late closing our books. ... The city asks that we close our books and invoice them 10 days after the month ends."
He added, "I want to be clear that this does not mean we fail to regularly invoice our funders. We are vigilant about receiving payments owed to us for the services we provide."
From 6 to 9 p.m. Thursday, May 17, API Wellness Center will hold Bloom, its annual fundraising gala, at the San Francisco Design Center Galleria, 101 Henry Adams Street, San Francisco. Individual tickets are $100. For more information, visit http://www.apiwellness.org.