Tacoma-Pierce County Health Department has $626,000 less in funding for its Family Support services programs this year. Now, it must close Family Support Centers in Hilltop, Parkland, Lakewood and Puyallup to close the gap, effective Feb. 28.
The funding cut is the result of the Dec. 31, 2013 ending of the Early Family Support Service (EFSS) contract with Children’s Administration. EFSS was a home visiting program for clients who needed help to develop better parenting skills but were not active Child Protective Services (CPS) cases.
“The services the Family Support Center network provides to Pierce County’s most vulnerable residents are a critical part of the fabric of our community,” said Anthony L-T Chen, MD, MPH, director of health. “Closing Family Support Centers is a sad outcome of the ending of a significant contract, but we are keeping our focus on preserving services to as many people as possible.”
To implement the budget cut, the Health Department received input from its Board of Health and its Family Support Services Task Force on a strategy that focuses on preserving six geographically distributed centers throughout the county. The geographic focus aims to maintain the greatest level of client access possible.
About 10 contract family support workers will continue to serve families through six Family Support Centers that include Bethel,
Key Peninsula, Eastside, Sumner, Orting and White River.
The Family Support Services program will continue to serve all of Pierce County through the remaining Family Support Centers, adjusting catchment areas based on numbers of families who need home-visiting in each area.
Funding challenges for the Family Support Center network are not new. Last March, several centers faced the threat of closure because of challenges with federal Title XIX Medicaid Administrative Match funding. In July, the Board of Health convened a Family Support Services Task Force made up of community partners, Board of Health members and Department staff. The group’s charge was to explore how the community can work together to preserve family support services in Pierce County. The task force met weekly from September to December and again in January to review the impacts of the contracting change. At the Jan. 22 study session, the Board received the Task Force’s broad recommendations to guide future planning for family support services.
“Staff and our partners will now focus on looking at the Task Force recommendations in the areas of structure, funding, advocacy and communication,” said Sebrena Chambers, Strengthening Families division director. “We appreciate the Task Force’s passion and dedication in helping chart the path forward for these valuable services to some of our most vulnerable residents,” she said.