Health Department faces largest staff reduction in history, cuts programs
Online Staff Report
Winnebago County Health Department (WCHD) will eliminate 22 full-time positions and cut various services following a reduction in state and federal grant support.
WCHD is facing a projected reduction in state and federal grant support for its FY 2012 budget of approximately $1.6 million, a result of funding cuts from both state and federal agencies.
The largest impact of the cuts relates to a set of integrated services designed to support mothers having healthy babies, preventing low birth-weight births by screening at-risk mothers and supporting their prenatal care to improve birth outcomes. These services include family case management and intensive prenatal case management programs.
Other services affected by the cuts include the following:
• Services for at-risk teen-agers, including teen parent services, alcohol and drug prevention and the safety network (middle school anti-bullying);
• Clinic-based and screening services, including women’s health and school-linked health services, audio-visual, and oral health screenings/sealants for school-aged children;
• Environmental health services, including West Nile virus surveillance, lead safe homes and Weed and Seed services to targeted neighborhoods; and
• Bioterrorism funding; and
• Ryan White outpatient health care services for those with AIDS.
These cuts mean WCHD has or will cease to provide certain services including teen parent services (July 2011) and lead safe homes (January 2011). Other services will continue, but with reduced staffing and capacity to carry caseload levels and frequency of visits as a result of staffing reductions.
Weed and Seed programs will not be receiving any further federal funding under the Weed and Seed grant. However, the grant guidelines allow for a six-month extension, which both Kishwaukee Corridor Weed and Seed and Ellis Heights will be taking advantage of, according to WCHD. In addition, both sites have been aggressively seeking other funding to continue the programming past the conclusion of the Weed and Seed grant.
The loss of the Weed and Seed grant does not mean the Weed and Seed program will not continue. Although funding is uncertain, WCHD will continue to work with residents to ensure the long-term viability of Weed and Seed.
Overall, 22 full-time positions will be eliminated through a combination of layoffs, retirements and not filling vacant positions—the largest staff reduction in the history of WCHD.
Over the past two years, the Health Department has taken a number of steps to streamline services and to more completely integrate staffing. This was enabled through consolidating three separate Health Department service locations into a renovated facility, in partnership with Winnebago County, at 555 N. Court St. The main office at 401 Division St. continues to be the other primary service location. Without this consolidation and integration effort, service impact and staffing changes would have been deeper, according to WCHD.
“Even in this budget crisis, cutting preventive health services that serve the most vulnerable of our community, who have even greater needs during these difficult times, makes no sense,” said Mike Bacon, Public Health administrator. “These programs are not only worthwhile, but are successful, efficient and yield a return on investment, and prevent the need for further spending down the road.
“This is the first time in the history of the WCHD we are having this large of a staff reduction,” Bacon added. “It saddens me greatly to lose these dedicated staff members who are a vital part of a strong set of preventive health services and who have served our community with great skill and caring.
“WCHD is not alone,” Bacon continued. “This week, the National Association of City and County Health Officials released its latest job-loss nationwide summary. This report indicates in Illinois over one-half to three-quarters of local health departments are faced with similar scenarios.”
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