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City Council Hears From Health Gap Supporters

Jay Hanselman
People filled Cincinnati City Hall Wednesday to show support for the Center for Closing the Health Gap.

Lots of people filled the Cincinnati City Hall council chamber Wednesday to show support for the Center for Closing the Health Gap.  

One police officer estimated about 150 were at the meeting, and some 50 of them spoke in favor of the group and the work it does.  
Former city health commissioner Stanley Broadnax said the Health Gap serves an important role.

"So I think it's important that we keep an innovative approach to decreasing health care costs to the system, to all the hospitals, to our health care centers by focusing on prevention and early intervention," Broadnax said.

Others spoke about how Health Gap programs have benefited them and their health.

The show of support comes as the city reviews how the non-profit is using taxpayer money after investigative reports from The Cincinnati Enquirer and WCPO. Those articles questioned some invoices the Health Gap delivered to the city for payment. The city did pay those expenses, although it did ask to be reimbursed for one invoice.

Health Gap President Dwight Tillery said the group has complied with its city contract.

"At no time did we violate the terms or spirit of our contract or attempt to skirt any part of the review process," Tillery said. "Check all of our spending and tell me now our process differs from any other non-profit and the way they receive their funds."

Tillery says the Enquirer and WCPO know nothing about the black community, its culture, or health challenges, or how to fix them.

"They have trashed the program developed by the people themselves as though only whites know best for black people but it is this precise arrogance and racist attitude that's caused racial and ethnic disparities in the first place," Tillery said.

During the last decade, the city has provided nearly $4 million in funding for the Health Gap. This fiscal year it is receiving $1 million from the city's general fund budget.

Four council members also publicly defended the agency in their remarks as the council meeting was ending.

"I want to extend my thanks and an apology to the Center for Closing the Health Gap," said council member Wendell Young. "Because I think it's a travesty that the Center for Closing the Health Gap has had to come down here and defend itself."

Council Member Yvette Simpson called any city audit of the center "bogus."

"Anyone who would aim to use the (city) administration to do personal or political dirty work, that's just wrong," Simpson said. "I don't want the administration chasing this."

In 2013, Dwight Tillery was the co-chairman of Mayor John Cranley's campaign. But their relationship has soured since then. Cranley was quoted in the recent articles, and said an audit of the group was warranted based in the information in the media reports.

The Center for Closing the Health Gap was created in 2004 to help improve the health of the poor and uninsured in Cincinnati through education, training and community outreach.

Jay Hanselman brings more than 10 years experience as a news anchor and reporter to 91.7 WVXU. He came to WVXU from WNKU, where he hosted the local broadcast of All Things Considered. Hanselman has been recognized for his reporting by the Kentucky AP Broadcasters Association, the Ohio Society of Professional Journalists, and the Ohio AP Broadcasters.