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Health and Welfare making cuts

by David Cole
| April 7, 2010 9:00 PM

The Idaho Department of Health and Welfare, in an attempt to address a personnel budget shortfall, announced Tuesday it plans to reduce its workforce and to close nine of its 29 offices, including the Bonners Ferry office.

The closures will happen within the next two months, and "will cause hardship and inconvenience for many people, but resources are not available to continue the current level of office support," the department said.

It will cut its statewide workforce by 126 people. The cuts included 32 administrative positions in Boise, 21 positions because of the office closures, and 73 from the agency's regional offices.

Four positions will be eliminated in the Coeur d'Alene office, at 1120 Ironwood Drive, and two in the agency's Ponderay office, near Sandpoint, said Emily Simnitt, a spokeswoman for the agency.

In Bonners Ferry, the office has eight employees, and the closure will mean the elimination of two positions. The other positions will likely be reassigned to other offices, Simnitt said.

The amount of leased space occupied by the St. Maries office will be reduced, with public assistance application work shifted to the Coeur d'Alene office. Child welfare and mental health services will continue operating out of the St. Maries office.

The changes in St. Maries will mean the elimination of one position, Simnitt said.

The cuts are expected to save the agency $7 million per year statewide, Simnitt said. The personnel and operation budget is 20 percent lower than it was two years ago, she said.

The agency evaluated client traffic at its offices, the ability to deliver services from another location, and the savings potential of office sites as it decided which offices to reduce services at or close, Simnitt said.

In addition to Bonners Ferry, offices will be closed in Orofino, McCall, American Falls, Bellevue, Emmett, Jerome, Rupert and Soda Springs. The offices announced for closure will experience different closure dates due to leases and timeframes for transferring remaining staff, the department said. Workers losing their jobs were told Tuesday.