By Edie Jeffers, Tacoma-Pierce County Health Department
TACOMA, Wash. – Tacoma-Pierce County Health Department is facing another funding reduction that will impact services to some of Pierce County’s most vulnerable residents.
Because of changes to a state contract, the Health Department will experience a $626,000 funding cut to its Family Support Center program in 2014. The change will reduce the service level provided through Family Support Centers and will likely close some centers.
“The services we provide to Pierce County’s most vulnerable residents through our Family Support Center network are a critical part of the fabric of our community,” said Anthony L-T Chen, MD, MPH, director of health. “Facing the prospect of closing centers is very difficult, but we are looking at ways to achieve efficiencies while preserving services to as many people as possible.”
The funding reduction is the result of the ending of the Early Family Support Services (EFSS) program that the Department of Social and Health Services (DSHS), Children’s Administration, contracts with the Health Department to provide. EFSS is a home visiting program for clients who need help to develop better parenting skills but are not active Child Protective Services (CPS) cases. Children’s Administration will no longer offer this contract as of Dec. 31, 2013.
Funding challenges for the Family Support Center network are not new. Earlier this year, several centers faced the threat of closure because of challenges with federal Title XIX Medicaid Administrative Match funding. In July, the Board of Health convened a Family Support Services Task Force made up of community partners, Board of Health members and Department staff. The group’s mission is to explore how the community can work together to preserve family support services in Pierce County. The task force has been meeting regularly since September and will provide its recommendations to the Board in February of 2014.
Chen informed the Board of the contracting change at its Dec. 4 meeting. The issue is also slated for discussion at the Board’s Dec. 18 study session.
“This latest funding challenge demonstrates once again that we need real solutions for important public health programs that serve our most vulnerable residents, and we need the entire community to participate in developing these solutions,” said Chen.