County’s health district still navigating leaner times
Cutting positions for 2020
SNOHOMISH — Nutrition and health care services for pregnant women and their young children are changing in parts of the county, but officials say clients will not see a lapse in services.
The services are through WIC (Women, Infants and Children) and First Steps, two programs cut from the Snohomish Health District budget for 2020. WIC will be transitioned to a new provider.
“WIC services aren’t going away,” said Heather Thomas, the health district’s public and government affairs manager. “We will be finding a new contractor for the WIC program, moving forward. The plan is that there will be some overlap so that … we can transition clients; so they’re not left in the lurch.”
WIC is a program that provides supplemental nutrition to pregnant mothers and their children, if the children are under the age of 5. First Steps is a health care program through the state that has been administered by the county health district.
WIC in Everett and Lynnwood will change hands by the end of June, and First Steps by end of March, Thomas said. Passage of the budget starts the process necessary to take on a new provider, she said.
The district’s caseload for First Steps will pass to a new agency. Possible takers are the nonprofit agencies Community Health Centers or Sea Mar, Thomas said.
She said the WIC clients affected by the transition are in Everett and Lynnwood; those in Snohomish and Monroe are already served through Pregnancy Aid and will not see a change in provider. The health district is working with the state Department of Health to move the caseload authorized for those two cities.
Linda Redmon, board member for the health district and a City Council member for the city of Snohomish, said the community partners that have expressed interest may be able to offer something better to clients, because of a “more comprehensive suite of services than the health district was able to offer.”
A $16.7 million 2020 budget was passed last week.
Over the summer, the district identified a $1.7 million budget deficit.
Total expenditure reductions from the cuts include $235,000 over the 2019 amended budget. The budget calls for reducing the district staff by 18 positions equal to 12.9 full time employees.
A hiring freeze at the district is continuing. That freeze means that hiring for funded positions can only occur with board approval, Thomas said.
The district wants to gather a supply of Naloxone. Redmon said the health district was able to build the Naloxone provision into 2020, so existing staff could track and provide Naloxone to law enforcement for cities that have contributed at least $1 per capita. She said cities that do not provide that level of funding can still get Naloxone at the bulk cost through the district. They will pay an additional charge for the overhead costs.
Redmon said the city of Snohomish has additional support for people who are struggling. That support comes from “faith organizations like the community kitchen and other programs run through churches, and through directing citizens to call 211.”
The 211 hot line is a comprehensive source for social services in the United States and Canada.
A drill in August gave staff and volunteers a chance to practice how medication would be distributed to a large population in the event of a disaster or outbreak.
Opioid prevention in schools through the Healthy Communities program: Staff reached out to multiple schools, senior centers and community groups, and offered resources for parents to help them talk to their kids about substance abuse.
Public records requests have gone up by 58 percent. The health district granted 337 public records requests in 2019. The district achieved a 20 percent decrease in the median number of days to close a request, and a 76 percent increase in the number of requests being closed within five business days.
• Locations to get assistance from the Women, Infant, Children (WIC) program: https://www.wicprograms.org/co/wa-snohomish
• 211: social service information in the United States and Canada.
In other health district news:
The board named Shawn Frederick as administrative officer of the Snohomish Health District. Frederick had been serving as interim administrator since June.
Frederick joined the county health district as the Healthcare Coalition Coordinator in March 2016, and a little more than a year later, he was promoted to the Administrative Services Directorship. Prior to that, he spent five years as a medical and dental practice manager for CHC of Snohomish County. He committed two decades to the United States Navy.
“I am humbled to be appointed by the board to serve in this capacity,” Frederick said.
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