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Nevada terminates grants to immunization nonprofit

Updated March 26, 2024 - 7:29 pm

A nonprofit organization focused on increasing the state’s immunization rates will have grants terminated after officials say it failed to pay over $400,000 to vendors despite the state reimbursing the organization for those payments.

Officials with the Nevada Division of Public and Behavioral Health informed Immunize Nevada Executive Director Sherilyn Duckworth and board members in a March 14 letter that funding to the organization would be suspended immediately, citing findings from an October on-site visit by state officials and “inadequate” responses from the nonprofit.

Aside from unpaid vendors, state officials also found that the organization was not complying with grant requirements, including a failure to maintain an internal system to properly administer the federal grants or track the time spent on work related to grants.

The letter, which was first reported on by the Nevada Independent, also ordered Immunize Nevada to pay the $402,815 in unpaid vendor invoices, for which state officials say it already reimbursed the organization, to vendors or the state.

The state received the nonprofit’s plans meant to correct the findings in early January, but informed Immunize Nevada in late February that the information shared with the corrective action plans were not sufficient.

The division’s finance office also plans to notify the Department of Treasury and the Nevada attorney general of “possible fraudulent activities” found during the site visit, according to the letter.

The missing funds were used to pay for employee’s salaries, said Duckworth, who became the organization’s director in January 2022.

“Under my administration, Immunize Nevada has not submitted a request for reimbursement knowing that we’re going to use those funds for other expenses aside from what those funds are supposed to be used for,” Duckworth said. “However, the time came when payroll was due, and we had some money in the bank. So the decision had to be made.”

“I made the decision to pay staff,” she said.

As for the unpaid vendor invoices that the organization received reimbursements for, Duckworth said two vendors have been paid. About $300,000 is still owed to Estipona Group, she said.

The termination of the grants, which totaled roughly $4 million, has left Duckworth “devastated.”

“This could have 100 percent been avoided if there was better communication between the state and Immunize Nevada,” Duckworth said. “It is sad that we are here and that people who need the vaccinations and education will not be able to get that until the state finds another entity to do the work that Immunize Nevada was doing.”

Duckworth said the organization should have never been authorized to receive multimillion-dollar grants during the pandemic, citing increased operational costs and “not being set up” to accept such large grants.

The grants made up approximately 90 percent of the nonprofit’s budget, Duckworth said.

Former Immunize Nevada Executive Director Heidi Parker did not respond to a request for comment.

Contact Taylor R. Avery at TAvery@reviewjournal.com. Follow @travery98 on X.

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