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The Bartholomew County Women, Infants and Children clinic in the State Street government annex building likely will move next year out of concerns for the poor condition of the building, county and state officials said.
“The Indiana State Department of Health is concerned about the environment in which WIC participants are being served in Bartholomew County,” said Ken Severson, a spokesman for the state agency, who confirmed that WIC will be transitioning services in Bartholomew County to a new provider.
WIC’s expectations include being housed in facilities that comply with the Americans with Disabilities Act and provide proper sanitation methods, he said.
Severson said a new location for WIC will be found that is near a bus line and that can remain open until 7 p.m. one night a week.
The state agency had held off on renewing its $225,437 annual grant with Bartholomew County, originally seeking a clause requiring the county to guarantee that a new office would be found for the program by this coming March. The grant contract expired at the end of September.
Carla Wolff, assistant director of Bartholomew County Health Department, said that the clause was removed in a subsequent negotiation. In place of the guarantee, the agency inserted a clause allowing it to transition out of county government if there was no progress toward finding offices away from the current annex building, she said.
The state told Wolff that the new grant contract has been approved but the county had yet to receive a copy. The most recent payment to the county from WIC was in November and covered October expenses, she said.
Although the five workers at the Bartholomew County WIC offices receive their paychecks from Bartholomew County, their salaries come from the state grant, Wolff said. The grant also covers the supplies and costs for vouchers to program recipients over the next year and was scheduled to begin Oct. 1.
The county provides the space in the annex rent-free and offers other free services to the agency, including use of county phones, Internet, postage meter charges and disposal of sharp medical waste, Wolff said. The county also provided furniture for the office, she said.
“Our commissioners have been very generous,” Wolff said.
She listed other concerns expressed by WIC, including:
Dangerous steps leading to its office
Lack of child gates or other protections that could keep children from running out onto State Street
Lack of infant-changing space in the restrooms
Although the building does not meet ADA requirements, it does have a chair lift to move wheelchairs up the stairs, but the lift was out of service for several weeks this month waiting for a part, Wolff said.
“The steps are very old; and if you look at them, you can see where they are rounded,” she said. “If you step wrong, you can slide on down. If they are in a wheelchair or have mobility problems, we have no way of getting them (upstairs).”
Wolff recalled a recent incident in which a young child escaped from his grandmother at the WIC office and ran unimpeded out the doors on the State Street side of the building, which is only about 20 feet from traffic.
Bartholomew County Commissioner Larry Kleinhenz said at a recent commissioners meeting that statewide the agency has been looking for organizations that could take over hosting of WIC clinics from county operations.
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