Leaders within the
Georgia Department of Public Health (DPH) are now in the final stages of
transforming the state's WIC program in an effort to create new
efficiencies and improve services. They're changes DPH's commissioner
labels "vital and necessary" within a program helping 303,000 mothers
and children secure the nutrition and counseling they need to grow
healthy and succeed.
"On day one of becoming a
new department, it was clear WIC required attention," said DPH
Commissioner Brenda Fitzgerald, M.D., who immediately began making
changes once public health was elevated to departmental status in July
In the year and a half
that followed, a new inspector general, Kenneth Bramlett, and 20 WIC
inspectors carried out 883 store inspections which resulted in the
disqualification of 93 vendors, many suspected of fraud. More than a
dozen individuals have been convicted of fraud, saving taxpayers an
estimated $72 million.
With fraud detection
measures now in place, along with sweeping legal and policy improvements
by DPH General Counsel Sid Barrett, DPH leaders are now focusing
"We've looked at every
way to make WIC lean, efficient and as successful as it can be," said
Yvette Daniels, DPH's director of health promotion, who oversees WIC (or
the Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants and Children),
among other programs.
In a March 13 meeting
with about 65 WIC and department staff, Daniels and others spoke of
"transforming" WIC operations by more clearly defining staff roles and
implementing a stronger system of checks and balances. The plan --
largely a recommendation from an independent consulting firm hired by
the department -- divides WIC staff into four core teams, each with a
separate focus: participants, stores, program administration and program
"This is a very fluid
process. Changes won't happen immediately, but over time," Daniels said
at the meeting.
Similar to the recent
restructuring of DPH human resources, which resulted in a 60 percent
reduction in the time it takes to fill a vacant position, each WIC
employee will have an opportunity to apply for a position in the new
organization. Already, four new senior-level deputy director positions
have been posted for hire. Those positions are expected to be filled
within weeks and will help shape the next phase of hiring and
recruiting, according to Debra Keyes, WIC program director.
"This is still a work in
progress, but we feel it important to share with you where we are now,"
Daniels said. "And, we'll continue to share these updates."
"This is all about making
WIC a strong, sound program," Fitzgerald said. "The work we've done
already is having a powerful impact."
Details on open positions can be found as they are posted at
-Story by DPH