By CRAIG FREILICH
The financially troubled Women’s Infants and Children (WIC) nutrition program in St. Lawrence County got a one-month reprieve from the state Health Department and a Watertown hospital, and a six-month plan is in the works.
Financial difficulties forced the North Country Children’s Clinic, which has an office in Canton that runs the county’s WIC program, to announce early last week that their operations would cease as of Oct. 11.
“The Children’s Clinic board voted unanimously for the state Department of Health to appoint a temporary operator, and we agreed,” said Krista Kittle, spokeswoman for Samaritan Medical Center (SMC) in Watertown, leading to the reopening of the clinic’s services.
Of particular concern to the people it serves in St. Lawrence County was the suspension of the Women’s Infants and Children (WIC) nutrition program, which works with women and their children to ensure that they get enough nutritious food.
The Health Department appointed SMC as temporary operator of the clinic, and SMC has given the clinic, based in Watertown, a loan of up to $200,000 to sustain operations through the next month. DOH, SMC and the clinic “will work together to develop a long-term, sustainable solution that meets the needs of the community,” the DOH said.
The North Country Children's Clinic, as it is comonly known, was recently renamed the North Country Family Health Center (NCFHC).
The DOH says it is working “to ensure there is no disruption of services to NCFHC patients, families and residents” in the North Country counties it serves.
The initial agreement keeps the clinic open for a month, and “we’re still waiting for a final temporary operational agreement” that would extend the assistance for six months, Kittle said.
She said that the immediate goal was a six-month agreement, “and beyond,” as the clinic, the hospital and the DOH work out the details.
Assemblywoman Addie Russell (D-Theresa) has suggested that part of the clinic’s difficulty was caused by state and federal government’s late payments to the agency