Nearly half of the family support centers in Pierce County that connect low-income people with parenting services and home nurse visits could be closed due to a cut in federal funds.
The Tacoma-Pierce County Health Department runs the 12 walk-in centers while contractors provide services in homes, such as nursing visits for pregnant women. The centers are threatened by a $1.6 million cut in Medicaid administrative matching funds. Four or five could be shut down. The services of up to four others could be reduced. As many as 20 positions would be eliminated, according to the Health Department.
More than a dozen people Wednesday praised the services offered by the centers, urging the Board of Health to keep them open. They were among more than 150 people who packed the Health Departments auditorium in Tacoma.
Sharita Reed said the nursing visits assisted her after she moved to the area during a pregnancy. As a result, her 9-month-old son is healthy, she said.
It came (at a) time when I needed help, and they were there for me, said Reed of Tacoma.
Wende Pentz said shes both worked for the centers and received their aid for her baby daughter.
Dont take this proven program away from moms like me, Pentz said.
Laura Wells, with the group Fight Crime: Invest in Kids, said the closures are a public safety issue because the centers programs for parents help prevent child abuse.
Jeanne Smith, director of a program for women, infants and children at Mary Bridge Childrens Hospital in Tacoma, challenged the board to preserve the centers.
Our children are too precious to abandon them now, Smith said. We are judged by our commitment to the most vulnerable in our society.
Camryn Ramirez of Tacoma said home visits for parenting helped her build strength to be a great mom today.
Theyre where I learned to trust people, she said.
The $1.6 million cutback is due to a change in a funding formula for the Medicaid administrative match, not related to cutbacks prompted by the congressional sequester. It could eliminate nearly 24,000 client contacts for services per year.
Health Department director Anthony L-T Chen said hes concerned that if the family support partnership is dismantled, it will never come back. He choked up and added: So we need to do what we can.
Board and staff members talked about options to reduce the closures, from spreading out the reduction in the departments budget to raising funds in the community. The board is expected to make a final decision in early May.
We remain 100 percent committed to looking for solutions, said board chairman Stan Flemming. Were not going to give up.
Steve Maynard: 253-597-8647