State health officials have canceled a controversial bidding process that awarded a contract to deliver the Allegheny County Women, Infants and Children program to a Washington County-based agency and removed it from the Allegheny County Health Department, which has managed the program locally since 1974.
The state did not say why it had essentially abandoned its application process to determine which local agencies would run the program, but it had faced a significant setback.
Earlier this month, WESA reported that the state had faced criticism from both lawmakers and advocates, who expressed concern about a sudden transition to new agencies for low-income families served by the program. . Lawmakers on both sides had also criticized the state’s bidding process; several long-standing WIC providers were on the verge of losing contracts in other parts of the state as well as in Allegheny County.
State health officials said on Tuesday that the agency “is committed to providing a competitive application process that is fair, transparent and accurate.”
WIC is available for pregnant women, breastfeeding mothers for up to one year after childbirth, and children under 5 years old. The federally funded program serves approximately 13,000 people in Allegheny County.
“Canceling these RFAs will have no impact on the continuity of WIC services for women and children who need them,” said Barry Ciccocioppo, spokesperson for the state Department of Health, with reference to the application process.
Allegheny County officials said on Tuesday they were happy to be able to continue administering the program locally.
“I care deeply about this program – it is my personal mission to ensure that we provide the best services to as many women, infants and children as possible,” said Dr Debra Bogen, director of the department. County Health Center, in a statement. declaration.
“Part of this mission includes plans to expand services and improve our reach by opening new WIC offices in places where they are needed most, including hospitals with maternity wards,” she said. “I thank all of our WIC staff for their dedication to the program and to improving the lives of all WIC participants.
State Representative Austin Davis, a Democrat from Mon Valley who criticized the state’s bidding process for the program, said he was happy with the state’s decision.