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Commissioner tries to reduce county’s take of federal grant for breast-feeding and nutrition

  • The Wichita Eagle
  • Published Wednesday, Oct. 16, 2013, at 9:05 p.m.

Sedgwick County commissioner Richard Ranzau tried unsuccessfully Wednesday to reduce the amount of a federal grant that the county health department receives annually for breast-feeding and nutrition services.

At their weekly meeting, county commissioners were considering a $2.27 million federal grant from the Kansas Department of Health and Environment for breast-feeding counseling and supplemental nutrition services through the Women, Infants and Children program at the health department.

Ranzau offered a motion to accept a grant of $1.7 million.

Ranzau said the case load for the program has decreased 17.6 percent since 2009 and 2010, when the case load was highest, while funding increased 18.9 percent. He said he calculated that the county should accept an amount of $1,737,606 as way of using tax dollars more efficiently.

“The bottom line is, when your case load goes down, your costs need to go down,” he said.

Ranzau said the county could see the same number of people for less costs.

“If we can’t, then perhaps we should see if somebody else could administer the program in the future at a lower cost,” he said.

Comissioner Tim Norton defended the program.

“To diminish this program and to diminish the funding, and to say that our employees do a bad job, flies in the face of everything I know about this program,” he said.

Commissioner Karl Peterjohn supported Ranzau’s motion, but Norton and commissioners Dave Unruh and Jim Skelton rejected it and voted to approve the original amount.

Roderick Harris, director of children and family health for the county health department, said the county has received the grant for nine years. This year’s award is a reduction of 7.9 percent from last year’s grant, he said.

Harris said the money is paying off. The initiation rate for the breast-feeding program has increased from 68 to 77 percent in the last year, he said, and those who are breast-feeding for at least three months have increased from 33 to 39 percent.

Of those children identified as being at risk for obesity and receiving special counseling from county nutritionists, 73 percent have stabilized or slightly decreased their weight, Harris said.

Under questioning by Unruh, Harris said the program is audited by the state department of health and environment. The county isn’t seeing first-time clients quickly enough to meet state expectations, he said, which is due in part to high turnover in staff.

But the state hasn’t found any waste in the program, he said. Harris said the county’s is one of the most highly regarded programs in the state.

Reach Fred Mann at 316-268-6310 or fmann@wichitaeagle.com.

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