County health, WIC to split

By TONY RAAP
Herald Staff Writer

Funding cuts have forced the Dubois County Health Department to sever ties with the Women, Infants and Children program, which gives food vouchers to mothers who need help feeding their children.

The move, approved Monday by the Dubois County Board of Health, means the state will have to find a new sponsor agency to oversee the local WIC clinic, which has been housed in the health department for more than 30 years.

WIC’s funding has been cut twice this year, forcing the clinic to scale back its hours. And two of the clinic’s three workers are quitting, including Stacey Fischer, who has coordinated the program for 13 years.

“It’s like we’re watching it disintegrate before our eyes, but there’s nothing we can do about it,” said Donna Oeding, the county health department’s administrative director.

A lot of institutional knowledge “is walking out the door, and that makes me sick,” she added.

WIC is a federally funded program overseen by the U.S. Department of Agriculture. The Indiana State Health Department administers the grants, which eventually trickle down to the county level.

The local clinic’s funding is tied to the number of people it serves. In 2012, its caseload fell 6 percent.

The clinic’s funding was cut in March, forcing it to close on Thursdays. Then in June, funding was cut again.

As a result, the whole staff will become part time, meaning no one at the clinic will receive health benefits.

After the last cut, Oeding asked the state health department to reconsider but was told that the state office didn’t have any leeway.

“Our biggest concern is we do not want a lapse in service to the clients,” Oeding said.

Ken Severson, a spokesman for the state health department, said services won’t be disrupted.

“WIC participants in Dubois County will be served continuously as the local health department transitions services to another local agency sponsor,” Severson said in an email. “The Indiana WIC Program appreciates the many years of WIC sponsorship Dubois County Health Department has provided.”

Besides food vouchers, WIC also offers health care referrals and nutrition information. Hundreds of people in Dubois County use the program each year. With only a few workers, the clinic is being asked to shoulder too heavy a burden.

And “as we lose our employees, the ratio goes up,” said Dr. Greg Berger, president of the county health board.

The county health department will turn over control of WIC on Sept. 30. Oeding said she is working to make the transition as smooth as possible.

The county health department may rent space to WIC’s new sponsor agency, a move the Dubois County Commissioners are expected to discuss Monday.

“We aren’t just going to let it drop,” Oeding said.

Contact Tony Raap at traap@dcherald.com.     




More on DuboisCountyHerald.com