Changes in WIC should improve program
The Department of Health and Hospitals announced this week that it is enacting major changes in its administration of the State’s Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC), following a DHH-requested audit of its operations, including enhanced procedures for monitoring vendors, their prices and their performance.
In addition, DHH will improve its communication with the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), which is run by the Department of Children and Family Services, to ensure that DCFS is informed when vendors are disqualified by WIC, so that it can determine if the vendor should remain in the SNAP program. DHH also will hire a nutritionist to serve as the Continuing Quality Improvement Coordinator and ensure that the program’s goals are being met and begin to use its trained sanitarians to inspect vendor facilities when complaints of unsanitary conditions exist.
In an effort to improve operations and performance of Louisiana’s WIC program, in the Fall of 2012 DHH leadership requested that the Louisiana Legislative Auditors (LLA) conduct a comprehensive performance evaluation of the program.
DHH Secretary Kathy Kliebert said the audit was requested to help improve the WIC program for those who rely on its critical services, while also protecting taxpayer dollars and ensuring that any bad vendors are no longer allowed to participate in the program.
WIC serves an average of 140,000 participants each month and accounts for one-third of the Office of Public Health’s budget, which underscores why it is important to us that the program runs efficiently, Kliebert added.
Assistant Secretary for Public Health JT Lane said significant improvement is not an option – it is a necessity.
Recently, DHH announced major successes in improving its restaurant inspections process, and now that same focus and energy will help improve WIC’s operations, as well. Better monitoring of vendors and enforcement of program rules and regulations will result in a transformation that drastically improves the state of WIC in Louisiana, Lane noted.
The two most substantial changes are the creation of a WIC Vendor Operations Manual that provides clear and consistent guidance, information, protocols and procedures for WIC employees in working with vendors, and the creation of a WIC Vendor Monitoring Database to track the status and vital information on all WIC-approved vendors. Both the Vendor Operations Manual and the Vendor Monitoring Database must be approved by the USDA before the program may begin using them.
Beginning early in 2014, vendor inspections will be done by the health inspectors who currently conduct retail food inspections throughout the state. This joint effort will allow for rapid sharing of information between the sanitarians and the WIC program staff. Already, WIC vendor unit employees are making referrals to health inspectors when they notice unsanitary conditions at WIC-approved vendors.
For more information about WIC, visit dhh.louisiana.gov/WIC.
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