After a meeting last month revealed that the Women, Infants and Children [WIC] program out of the North Central Pennsylvania Regional Planning and Development Commission [NCPRPDC] may face a $92,000 budget cut for the new fiscal year, officials expressed concern Wednesday morning after the figures had a chance to sink in.
"We're coming up on the end of our fiscal year and we do have some budgetary concerns directly affecting our department," said Julie Kasmierski, WIC director. "Some of the things [NCPRPDC executive director] Eric [Bridges] and I have talked about involve looking at consolidating some of our clinic sites. We plan on retaining all of our staff but some of the staff patterns will change slightly.
"Services will continue to be offered in all five of the counties; we're just looking at consolidating some of the sites and making some changes."
WIC is a nutrition education program that provides foods which promote good health for pregnant, breastfeeding and postpartum women, infants, and children up to age five. The foods include cereal, milk, juice, cheese, infant formula/juice, and others.
"It's not really at this point in time considered a cost-saving measure as much as it is a restructuring measure to fit within the resources that we currently have," Bridges said. "I think our resources were cut-- we had a little bit over $1 million last year and we're about $880,000 to $890,000 this year, so it's really in response to that decrease.
"The WIC program and how we approach it is very staff-intensive. The counseling and support, it's all very staff-dependent, so recognizing that, we're doing everything we possibly can to avoid any of the changes or subtractions that could affect the staff and our clientele. We're still kind of tossing around some scenarios of what the different staff patterns will look like, but I believe we currently have 13 staff and we have 15 clinics right now."
Locations in Ridgway include the main office along Montmorenci Road, the St. Marys WIC Clinic at 207 Stackpole St., St. Marys, and the Weedville WIC Clinic at the Weedville Methodist Church, 1907 Redwood Ave., Weedville.
"There is the question of how many of those clinic sites will we be able to maintain- and if we are, what does that mean in terms of our daily activities there, but inasmuch that I'm comfortable that the program will still be run efficiently, this isn't about saving dollars," Bridges said. "There is still a chance-- although I'm not counting on it-- that the program may get an amended amount of money. We receive 9-month allocations and in the past we've always been able to receive an additional 10 to 25 percent, but everything going on right now regarding budgets and that whole conversation, we're not counting on that this year."