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Children's Clinic, WIC funded for at least six months

Joanna Richards/WRVO
The WIC program serves about 10,000 people from Watertown to Malone.

Last week was a rough one for the North Country Children's Clinic in Watertown. As the non-profit confronted mounting financial problems, it announced that it had to close. Then, on Thursday, local lawmakers jumped in to keep the center open for at least another month. Now, the clinic says it has secured funding for another six months.

When the North Country Children’s Clinic announced its closure last week, it was really bracing for the worst.

For example: the clinic runs the WIC nutrition program for four North Country counties, serving about 10,000 people. At WIC sites in Canton, Potsdam, Massena and Ogdensburg, the staff started canceling appointments. They told people to start making other arrangements.

But it didn’t come to that.

"We are open, our programs our open, and particularly as it affects the WIC program, there should be absolutely no disruption of service," said Elaine Garvey, the North Country Children’s Clinic’s Marketing Director. She says this has all happened very quickly.

When the clinic reached an agreement with Samaritan Medical Center and the state Department of Health, it reassured the public that it could stay open for at least another month.

[Update: Krista Kittle, marketing director and spokeswoman for Samaritan Medical Center, said this morning that SMC has not agreed to provide extended funding for the children's clinic. She said SMC will provide $200,000 to the clinic for the first month, in order to "buy time." She said SMC is working closely with the state Department of Health and the children's clinic "to develop a long term plan, including developing sources for funding beyond the first month, to move the clinic forward.]

Now, Garvey says Samaritan will fund the clinic for at least six months.

"It has been confusing, and we’re very sorry for that. But we expect to be around for a long time to come, and we’re just so happy to be able to keep providing services to the women and children who rely on us," Garvey said.

She’s hopeful that by the time those six months are up, the clinic will have figured out a more permanent solution. Meanwhile, Garvey says the clinic has a new name; the North Country Family Health Center.