APRIL 8, 2010

Orofino Health and Welfare office to close; employees laid off or transferred

   Four of Orofino’s 19 Health and Welfare employees will be laid off and the remaining 15 will be transferred to Lewiston or elsewhere, said Tom Shanahan, public information officer, following Tuesday’s announcement that the Orofino Health and Welfare office is one of Idaho’s nine Health and Welfare offices to be closed within the next two months.

   An Associated Press release from Boise Tuesday stated about a third of the state’s field offices for the Department of Health and Welfare, including one in Orofino, are being closed and 126 workers laid off within the next two months as the department struggles to cope with a shrinking budget.

   Department officials announced Tuesday that offices in American Falls, Bellevue, Bonners Ferry, Emmett, Jerome, McCall, Orofino, Rupert and Soda Springs would close within the next two months, and some services in the St. Maries office would be shifted to Coeur d’Alene.

   “The closures will cause hardship and inconvenience for many people, but resources are not available to continue the current level of office support,” the department wrote in a press release.

   The Legislature left the decision on how to balance the Idaho Department of Health and Welfare’s $138 million general fund budget in the hands of Director Dick Armstrong. In the press release, the department said it evaluated traffic at each of the offices, as well as the ability to shift services to another location.

   Many of the offices being closed had smaller caseloads than those carried at other offices, the department said.

   Health and Welfare clients will have to wait longer to get phone responses, have their applications for services processed and meet with staffers, the department said.

   Officials said child welfare and mental health services will continue to be provided in the regions affected by office closures.