Health

Louisville Metro Council members expressed frustration Tuesday with the city’s lack of outreach for the Woman, Infants and Children Program clinics, half of which are closing at the end of the month.

WIC clinics provide formula and healthy food to new mothers, among other things. City health officials said they are shuttering three of the city’s six clinics because fewer mothers in Louisville are participating in the program. That means the city will get less federal money for it.

City officials said participation in WIC in Louisville dropped to about 13,000—compared to a high of 16,000 participants. In April, Louisville Metro Health and Wellness officials said the program was facing a $300,000 shortfall this fiscal year ending this month because of the declining participation. The shortfall would be at least $800,000 in the next fiscal year, officials said.

“So our plan for [fiscal year 2016] is that we are going to have three large regional sites with staff that are also dedicated to outreach and retention,” said Dr. Sarah Moyer, interim director of the Louisville Metro Department of Public Health and Wellness.

The remaining three sites will be near Dixie Highway, Newburg and on Broadway, Moyer said during Tuesday’s council committee meeting.

Councilwoman Mary Woolridge, who chairs Metro Council’s Health, Education, and Housing committee, said she’s disappointed the clinics are closing.

“My worry and concern is the quality of service that these recipients will receive with so many going to these three locations,” she said.

In an effort to prevent more closures in the future, Health and Wellness officials said they are starting programs aimed at getting more people to take part in the program.

Moyer said their plan includes enrollment at hospitals, partnerships with doctors’ offices and improving client experience and wait times, among other things. The program is also going to start offering some of its educational components online, she said.

Outreach at University Hospital, Moyer said, is projected to  increase enrollment by 2,400, she said.

But Councilman Bill Hollander said more should have been done to prevent this situation in the first place.

“I think what you have seen from this council and others is a real concern about this issue,” Hollander said. “We know that WIC works. It’s a program that works around the country. And to not get those numbers up really does leave federal dollars on the table.”

The closures are expected to affect about 5,000 participants in WIC.