Budget shortfall leads health department to close half its WIC c - WDRB 41 Louisville News

Budget shortfall leads health department to close half its WIC clinics

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LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) -- The Louisville Metro Health and Wellness Department is closing three WIC clinics that help mothers feed their children healthier meals.

WIC stands for Women, Infants and Children, and in Louisville, there are now fewer of them in the program. That's why the federal funding is also shrinking.

Sherry Matthews and daughter Haelie have been in the WIC program for almost two years. Shirley gets nutrition counseling and a debit card that helps buy healthy food.

"Some milk, some juice, cereal, some eggs," said Sherry.

"When you ain't got the money, and you need something to fall back onto, it helps out a lot," said Haelie's grandmother, Betty O'Neil.

Starting in July, the family will have to travel further to get those benefits. The WIC Clinic on Hazelwood Ave. is shutting down.

"Being as we live right down the road, I believe this one here would be a lot closer," said O'Neil, who was blunt when WDRB asked what she thought of the clinic shutting down.

"I think it sucks," she said.

The Metro Health Department is closing two other WIC centers as well, in Middletown and Fairdale.

"We found that we were going to have a minimum $800,000 shortfall," said Leanne Pearson, the health department's WIC nutrition manager.

The health department gets federal WIC funds based on the number of people in the program.

The department says that number is falling in Louisville because of the improving economy and the availability of other programs that don't require regular visits to a counselor.

"It's a different kind of generation. They don't want to come in and spend the time to get the benefits," said Pearson.

No one is losing benefits, but the WIC program is being consolidated into the three remaining centers located at the L&N building downtown, in Newburg and on Dixie Highway.

"We're having to put the money where the usage is," said Louisville Mayor Greg Fischer.

For Sherry's family and the nearly 4,000 others affected, it means a longer drive, cab ride, or bus ride.

"We just found out today. So I don't know how it's going to really affect us when it comes to getting here and back home," said O'Neil.

The health department is planning more outreach in hospitals to make new moms aware of the program. In July, it also plans to launch a pilot online program.

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