Nutrition program for women, infants, children in St. Lawrence County forced to close
Wednesday, October 9, 2013 - 2:58 pm

The Women, Infants and Children program, or WIC, has canceled appointments in St. Lawrence County after Friday.

That’s because the agency that runs the WIC sites in the county, the North Country Children’s Clinic, has run into money problems and is being forced to close after Friday, they hope only for a short time.

The Watertown-based organization runs WIC here from an office in Canton.

People who have WIC appointments in Ogdensburg today and tomorrow and in Massena on Friday can keep them, but those with appointments in Canton and Potsdam next week, and around the county thereafter, will have to make other arrangements to get their benefits.

Those already signed up for WIC might get a call from the state Department of Health to make arrangements, or those signed up for WIC may call (800) 522-5006 for information, according to local NCCC workers. It appears that those who wish to sign up for WIC but haven’t yet will have to wait.

North Country Assemblywoman Addie Russell (D-Theresa) is concerned that the program is shutting down, at least temporarily, and says some of the blame has to be put on government.

“I am troubled that the clinic is having to close its doors. I have worked with the clinic to address slow payments from the state and share their frustration,” Russell said.

“There is additional funding that has been earmarked for the Children’s Clinic, but it has taken over six months for the NYS Department of Health to acknowledge the funding,” she said.

“Now that the health department has agreed there is money to help the clinic with its financial needs, the department has informed us that it must go through additional reviews in the department and then reviews by the executive.”

The 116th District assemblywoman said the North Country Children’s Clinic is an essential healthcare provider in the region, and also runs important programs, including WIC, which has also been impacted by the federal government shutdown.

“The clinic and its staff have worked extremely hard to become a sustainable organization, winning key certification to provide services to adults, and with that being approved for higher reimbursement rates for all of their services,” Russell said.

“I will be meeting with clinic staff to ensure they re-open as soon as possible,” she said.

Russell’s district includes all St. Lawrence County towns along the St. Lawrence River plus Canton, Potsdam, Rossie, Macomb and DePeyster, and northern Jefferson County, but not including Watertown.

WIC is a nutrition program aimed at improving the health of pregnant women, new mothers, infants and children.

WIC gives families healthy food, free nutrition advice, tips for staying healthy, recipes, and resources for growing families.

North Country Children’s Clinic, based in Watertown, oversees the WIC program in St. Lawrence, Jefferson, Lewis, and Franklin counties. The program staff, which includes nutritionists and nurse educators, looks at the nutrition needs of participants and writes “food prescriptions” in the form of vouchers or checks for specific food items. These WIC Checks can be used at participating local grocery stores.

The NCCC also runs programs out of offices in Lowville and Malone.

Program staff, who are limited in what they can say to the press because of restrictions placed on them by federal funders, were able at least to inform us of the status of the WIC appointments and the closure at the end of this week.