Dubois County WIC program forced to cut staffing expenditures by 26%

Dubois County Health Department Director Donna Oeding told the county council that the department is facing an arbitrary cut in staffing hours for the Women Infant and Children program – also known as WIC.

The State of Indiana has mandated that WIC programs statewide cut their staff expenditures by 26 percent. The Statewide Caseload Reallocation is designed to cut costs by cutting staffing to the program. According to Stacey Fischer RD IBCLC, Dubois County WIC Coordinator, the program doesn’t have a lot of overhead other than staffing.

The state program is funded through a federal program called the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC). Through this federal program, states are provided grants for supplemental foods, health care referrals, and nutrition education for low-income pregnant, breastfeeding, and non-breastfeeding postpartum women, and to infants and children up to age five who are found to be at nutritional risk.

WIC is not an entitlement program, like food stamps. Participants are required to go through health screenings and participate in some training to receive benefits. “The focus is to try to increase the health of the participants,” Fischer said. “The program has been around for 30 plus years and it’s proven its benefit for healthy outcomes.”

Currently, the Dubois County WIC office sees about 90 families a week, down about 6 percent since 2011. Fischer speculates this reduction is due to the increased allocation of other programs like the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), or food stamps. “We have many people that have used our program that say they don’t need us because they are now on food stamps,” Fischer stated.

She also considers the low unemployment in Dubois County as a factor in the lowering participation.

There is still plenty of need in the community and Fischer expects the reduction in hours could lead to a lower availability of appointments and thus a greater waiting time to get into an appointment. “We have appointments available tomorrow,” Fischer stated on Tuesday. “That appointment availability may be pushed back some, but we still plan to serve everyone that is interested and eligible.”

Oeding reiterated that the office is taking the necessary steps to minimize the amount of impact and still provide the services needed by the public. However, Oeding’s proposal would see the four WIC employees’ hours cut from 114 hours per week to 84 hours.

“We want to do everything we can to minimize the impact to the public because we believe this is an important program,” Oeding said

The Dubois County WIC Office located at 1187 S St. Charles St., Jasper and is open Monday from 12 to 7  p.m., Tuesday through Thursday 8 a.m. to 12 p.m., closed for lunch and then reopens from 1 to 4 p.m., and Fridays 8 to noon. Their number is 481-7060.