Posted by: Randy Allgaier | March 1, 2009

Obama’s Choice for National AIDS Policy Director is a homerun

The HIV/AIDS Community is universally praising President Obama for his appointment of Jeffrey S. Crowley as the head on the Office of National AIDS Policy (ONAP) and I agree. I’ve known Jeff for over 10 years and couldn’t imagine a better choice. He has vast expertise on Ryan White programs, Medicaid and Medicare. He has worked to improve access to health and social services for people living with HIV/AIDS, people with physical and mental disabilities, low-income individuals, and other vulnerable populations.

“This is brilliant,” was the reaction of David Munar, who chairs the National Association of People with AIDS (NAPWA), where Crowley worked from 1994-2000. “The Administration made a strategic choice about someone who knows health care above all else, so they got a two-fer: he is passionate about HIV, and he knows health care systems. This means the office will be relevant. He will champion us and our needs in the health care reform process.”

Advocates note that ONAP had already gained relevance in the eyes of the Administration due to the AIDS community’s work to secure $1.4 million for the development of the National AIDS Strategy (NAS) in the upcoming omnibus budget bill, which is poised go into effect on March 6 when the continuing resolution ends.

The Domestic Policy Council, where ONAP is based, had been eviscerated during the Bush years, and those who have spoken with Council staff have said that they are appreciative of the resources and are committed to the NAS process.

Advocates anticipate that the funding, which has to be obligated (committed to specific spending if not literally spent) by the end of the fiscal year on September 30, could pay for a six or seven staff members for ONAP. It could also go towards the additional costs of establishing a cross-government/community panel, which is the structure that the Coalition for a National AIDS Strategy recommended to develop and monitor the NAS. I should note that I am a member of the coalition’s coordinating committee.

Anne Donnelly, Director of Health Care Policy at Project Inform said “His longtime commitment to ensuring quality health care for people with HIV/AIDS, particularly the most vulnerable, and his demonstrated expertise with systems serving the community makes him a perfect choice to lead this office as we enter serious discussions about health care reform and the development of a National AIDS Strategy.”

A press release from The San Francisco AIDS Foundation stated, “The current economic climate presents enormous challenges for health care in the U.S. Crowley’s expertise extends from HIV/AIDS to health care systems, which augurs well for the integration of HIV into health care reform.”

“I think it’s amazing,” said Robert Greenwald the Director of the Treatment Access Expansion Project. “He is one of the most hardworking, diligent, non-ego-involved people I’ve ever worked with, just a good person. I can’t even believe it. He’s incredibly plugged into the community.”

I couldn’t agree more with Robert’s description of Jeff. I have had the pleasure of working closely with Jeff on Medicare policy issues in 2002 and think that his appointment is a brilliant choice by the administration. He is one of the smartest, most dedicated and down to earth people I have worked with. He is a nice guy who is grounded and happens to be a brilliant policy wonk who also possesses a deep understanding of how policy and politics interact.

Jeffrey S. Crowley, M.P.H., is a Senior Research Scholar at Georgetown University’s Health Policy Institute and a Senior Scholar at the O’Neill Institute for National and Global Health Law, Georgetown University Law Center. In these roles, he is recognized and respected for his capacity to integrate public health research with political strategy to achieve policy changes. He has authored numerous reports and policy briefs, and has testified before various Congressional Committees and the Institute of Medicine on several occasions.

Jeff previously served as the Deputy Executive Director for Programs at the National Association of People with AIDS (NAPWA). While at NAPWA, he helped implement several key initiatives including The National HIV Testing Day Campaign and the Ryan White National Youth Conference.

Crowley’s deep roots in the HIV/AIDS community send a signal that the Obama administration will seriously engage with the community as we enter into important conversations about the development of a National AIDS Strategy and health care reform.

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