Havre Daily News
Northern Montana Hospital has agreed to help the local WIC program, which serves 426 people in Hill, Blaine and Liberty counties, meet new state requirements so it can remain open.
"In order to help our local WIC office meet that requirement of having to have a registered dietician on staff, Northern Montana Hospital is going to provide the staff for them," hospital spokeswoman Kathie Newell said Monday.
"We think it's very important that service be provided locally," Newell said.
The Montana Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants and Children, commonly known as WIC, provides food vouchers and nutrition counseling for mothers, expectant mothers and people raising young children who meet certain criteria. The state has said that by Oct. 1, all WIC offices must contract with a registered dietician or face closure. The registered dietician is to be made available to WIC participants.
In rural parts of the state, WIC directors are having difficulty finding somebody. Local WIC director Kari Dawson was among those scrambling to meet the requirement.
"It takes the pressure off," Dawson told Hill County Commissioner Mike Anderson in a meeting Monday to update the commission.
Newell said hospital staffer Christen Obresley approached the hospital administration about providing the service. Obresley is a member of the Hill County Health Consortium and heard about WIC's need for a dietician through that group.
Dawson said a WIC office in Glasgow also contacted her after a Havre Daily News article described her need. The Glasgow office offered to share its counselor, Dawson said, but it was asking for a higher pay rate than Northern Montana Hospital was able to offer.
Lorna Grant, WIC counselor at the Fort Belknap Indian Reservation WIC office, said her office does not have a registered dietician on staff yet.
The Rocky Boy's Indian Reservation WIC director could not be reached for comment this morning. Last month directors at both offices said they may be able to contract with registered dieticians who work at reservation clinics.
Though Dawson said the local WIC office has crossed one hurdle, there are other challenges, she told Anderson. Her office is of medium size. Some smaller and larger offices pair with county health departments to share administrative burdens, and Dawson said handling the phones while meeting with participants is difficult.
Anderson and Dawson agreed that if the county receives a federal health clinic grant, the WIC office could be moved to the same location, likely the Hill County Annex.
Dawson said the annex would be a good site for WIC because WIC draws lots of people who might then make use of a clinic's resources.