|Updated: 10/04/2012 10:15 pm
||Published: 10/04/2012 7:37 pm
On Thursday, The Oklahoma State Department of Health defended its decision to stop giving federal WIC funds to three Tulsa Planned Parenthood Health Centers starting in January. Planned Parenthood had been administering the WIC funds, which provide vouchers for food for mothers and children as well as health education, for the past 18 years.
Parents like Shawn Conwell are very thankful for WIC.
“We get cans of formula, some baby food for the month. It helps us out, it helps out a lot,” The father of nine-month-old Cruz told FOX23.
Shawn is also thankful he doesn't get his WIC benefits from Planned Parenthood after he learned about the state’s decision. He doesn't think it's the right call.
“I really don't, I really don't. I think they should keep them (as a benefits administrator).”
He says cutting out Planned Parenthood will mean more people will come to county health department offices to get benefits.
“I am sure there's a lot of people who go to Planned Parenthood to get their WIC, and if they have to go where we go, there's going to be a longer wait. I am sure it's going to back everything up,” he said.
Planned Parenthood says last year it had 38,000 WIC related visits to its health centers. The agency says it received no justification from the state about the decision.
In response, the State Health Department said, "The WIC program has opted not to renew the contract with Planned Parenthood in Oklahoma for business reasons. This is a renewal period and the agency has taken the option not to renew based on the needs of the health department, the contractor's performance, and funding availability. "
The state said no one would lose their benefits, but those getting their WIC assistance from Planned Parenthood would need to find a new location, such as a Tulsa County Health Department office, to get help next year.
For parents like Shawn, it's a hard pill to swallow.
“I see cuts going into everything, from that to education. I think we're cutting out the wrong things.”
To qualify for WIC benefits, a family of three would have an annual income of $35,000 or less.