'Capital for a Day' Addresses Key Enrollment and Security Challenges Facing New York State's WIC Program

Albany NY – (July 10, 2015) -- New York State Health Commissioner Dr. Howard Zucker joined Governor Andrew M. Cuomo and other state officials in Rochester for the inaugural 'Capital for a Day' and announced a number of changes to New York State's Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants and Children (WIC) to improve enrollment and security of program participants.

"Capital for a Day gave us an opportunity to showcase the enhanced safety and security measures at Jordan HealthLink." said New York State Health Commissioner Dr. Howard Zucker. "A safe facility will help attract more people to the WIC program, which remains one of the state's most robust and viable programs for improving the health of this community."

WIC plays a vital role in providing access to nutritious foods for eligible families in New York. Despite the tremendous strides this program has made in fighting hunger, poor nutrition, and chronic disease, some challenges still exist that must be overcome. During a tour of Jordan HealthLink WIC clinic, Dr. Zucker worked to address these problems with Office of Temporary and Disability Assistance Commissioner Samuel D. Roberts and local stakeholders.

"Governor Cuomo is committed to making sure people eligible for nutrition assistance through programs like WIC are getting the help they need," said OTDA Commissioner Samuel D. Roberts. "Increasing participation in WIC will benefit children, parents and the entire community."

The Jordan HealthLink WIC clinic is one of New York State's approximately 400 WIC clinics where program participants can meet with staff and access nutrition education and other health resources. Last month, Governor Cuomo announced $658 million in state and federal funding over the next five years to 92 health and wellness providers that administer these clinics. Jordan Health and the Monroe County Health Department were two of the organizations to receive funding.

The primary area of concern discussed was declining enrollment in the WIC program. WIC enrollment in New York State is down 3.5 percent over the past year, and down 9.8 percent over the past two years. By working together, the group developed a number of changes that will be implemented to help boost enrollment. For example, the list of foods available for purchase under WIC will be expanded to provide more options for program participants. The new list includes plain yogurt, canned beans, whole wheat pasta and tortillas, white potatoes, and more baby food options.

Also, structural enrollment barriers will be removed. Now, participants will be able to use their driver's license to meet both identity and residency requirements, whereas in the past, multiple documents were required. Individuals who are enrolled in Medicaid automatically meet income requirements for WIC and the process for verifying Medicaid enrollment has been streamlined.

Recent security issues may have also played a role in declining enrollment at the Jordan HealthLink WIC clinic. Since the safety of the program participants is paramount, the group discussed ways to utilize WIC funding to implement changes to make the facility safety. This includes new security cameras, locks, trainings, and the hiring of a security guard. These measures can also now serve as a blueprint for other WIC clinics facing similar issues.

For more information about New York State's WIC program, visit www.health.ny.gov/ wic/. To locate the WIC local agency nearest you, call the Growing Up Healthy Hotline: 1-800-522-5006."