The Summit County Health Department will be seeing a budget reduction of $15,000 in its Women, Infants and Children (WIC) program for the 2014 fiscal year. Those cuts, from the Utah Department of Health, combined with the reductions already made for 2013 amount to a $45,000 total reduction compared to 2012.
Summit County Health Department Director Rich Bullough said the WIC program has suffered two years of cuts, with last year's being quite large.
"We were able to absorb the current year's cuts by becoming more group-oriented instead of individual-to-individual," Bullough said.
WIC provides many services to lower-income residents such as healthy foods for women, infants and children, nutrition education, high-risk nutrition counseling, health care referrals and breastfeeding promotion and support.
"Part of the WIC program is to teach individuals what healthy foods are and what foods are available," Bullough said. "We also do physical exams of infants to make sure they're thriving."
The WIC program will also be focusing on expanding its online learning resources for participants. Unfortunately, because of this most recent round of cuts, Bullough said they will have to reduce staffing. This reduction will probably be in shifting WIC's Spanish interpreter from a full-time to a part-time position.
Bullough lamented that this will have a direct impact on the Spanish-speaking population of Summit County. Because the WIC program has only three employees (translator, dietitian and director), the organization is already stretched thin.
The county is trying to shift its resources to provide for other translators to come in to the WIC office.
"We're trying to assure that [interpreters] will be available so that they can leave the program that funds them for a few minutes and come down and do some interpreting," Bullough said.
In the next budget year, WIC will be looking to set up work stations in its office so that individuals who may not be as familiar with computers can get some online mentoring. WIC Program Director Jennifer Morrill said they are also looking at partnering with the Summit County Library in creating classes on teaching people how to use the Internet to get on the WIC website and take classes.
"We want to form a partnership with librarians who speak Spanish who could help teach these classes," Morrill said. "That alone would help. We just don't have the staff to be able to teach these classes."
At least some good news, Bullough said, is that the food WIC provides will not be reduced. However, he is upset that what he sees as such a vital program is sustaining huge cuts.
"It's frustrating to me when we see cuts to programs that provide good food to people," Bullough said. "These are fundamental programs for families in need. We have a larger proportion of individuals in our community that need these services than we realize."
"It's disheartening when you see cuts to such a great program because WIC provides so many positive things for these women and children," Morrill said. "For every dollar spent on WIC, it saves so much in the long term."