Keep Healthy Families around

Published 7:23 pm Thursday, November 18, 2010

Four state agencies that have business in Suffolk and receive some local funding recently reported their plans to make up for stimulus funding to the city manager.

Like many agencies, governments and even private businesses throughout the country, Suffolk Public Schools, Western Tidewater Community Services Board, Western Tidewater Health District and the Suffolk office of the Virginia Cooperative Extension have relied on stimulus funding to keep people employed and programs in place through the recession. They recently submitted sustainability plans to the city, outlining how they will make up for the loss of the stimulus funding in the coming year.

The extension service was optimistic about its situation next year. The other agencies, however, are considering cutbacks ranging from the sensible to the extreme.

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The Western Tidewater Health District demonstrates both in its plans. On the one hand, it is planning to reduce the amount of space it uses in order to sublet office space to another state agency. This plan demonstrates a particular quality we all want to see in government agencies — efficiency at no cost or reduction of services to taxpayers.

However, another part of the health district’s plan is particularly regrettable, especially considering the many people who could lose a valuable community resource.

The health district told City Manager Selena Cuffee-Glenn that the Healthy Families program could be on the chopping block. Healthy Families helps counsel first-time parents through the difficult first five years of parenthood. Employees visit parents in their home, talk about solutions to typical parenting issues, help ensure the child is meeting developmental goals, and more.

The program isn’t funded solely by taxpayer dollars, either — it receives grants from numerous organizations, including, most recently, $63,390 from the Obici Healthcare Foundation.

The district should do everything it can to keep the Healthy Families program, and others like it, active in Suffolk. The district also is considering layoffs, which also will be detrimental to the community.

We encourage the local agencies to protect jobs and beneficial programs at all costs.