Case loads for the Riley County Health Department’s WIC program are at an all-time low, which has some department personnel concerned.
WIC, or the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants and Children under the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Food and Nutrition Service, is declining, said WIC supervisor at RCHD Lisa Ross.
Ross presented a report about the program on Monday morning at the Riley County Commission meeting.
“I personally believe our case load will drop this coming year because our case load since August has been dropping,” Ross said. “That here in our area has been happening, but it’s also been happening all around the state.”
She said the state agency at the Kansas Department of Health and Environment assigns the county health department a case load each year as a part of a contract after the budget is submitted, which is happening now, she said.
The assignment in Manhattan is 1,258 clients; at Fort Riley it’s 2,124; and in Pottawatomie County, it’s 133 clients, but the actual numbers come up short.
Currently, Ross said, there are 1,192 Manhattan clients, 1,828 at Fort Riley and 125 in Pottawatomie County.
Ross said that the local WIC program is supposed to serve within the range of 98 percent to 103 percent of its assigned case load.
The health department’s WIC program serves outside of the county.
“The state does not require that you have to go to your county to be a participant of a certain WIC program,” Ross said. “Whatever is most convenient for the client is where they can get their services.”
Ross said people come from as far as Topeka and Clay Center to get WIC checks.
Commission Chairman Bob Boyd asked Ross what the ramifications of a low case load would be.
“Sometimes funding can be taken away,” Ross said. “In the past — I’ve been here since ‘94 — this is the lowest I feel that our case load’s been, so I’m a little bit worried.”
But Ross added that she didn’t know the consequences because the department has never been below an ideal percentage.
“We’re significantly out of whack,” Boyd said. He asked why the numbers were low.
Ross said there were several reasons, including a declining birth rate year after year, families dropping out voluntarily after their children get past infancy and the federal government sequester.
“They also think that the sequester had an impact on people not thinking that the WIC program was open,” Ross said.
“That was kind of a misconception here in Kansas because there were states that closed their offices, but Kansas never did, and they heard the national news that said we are closed and so we did see some significant drops.”
Ross said it was hard to tell what the effects of the sequester were because some families might just have dropped out voluntarily.
But Ross said the problem is not just in Riley County, which is why the state hasn’t adjusted the case load by sending a letter.
“They haven’t done that to us yet, and I think the reason we haven’t gotten that letter is because the whole entire state is down,” Ross said.
“So I think that they realize it’s not just one particular area, it’s statewide, so at this point they’re not concerned.”