The Idaho Department of Health and Welfare (DHW) announced Tuesday that it will shut down nine of its 29 offices across the state within the next two months. DHW will also lay off 126 state employees, including 32 in administrative offices in Boise. The closures and layoffs should save DHW $7 million and meet its reduced budget for staffing and offices.
The closures are spread across the state, with five in south and east Idaho towns, including Soda Springs, American Falls, Rupert, Jerome, and Bellevue. Offices in Emmett, McCall, Orofino, and Bonners Ferry will also close before the next state fiscal year starts in July. Services will also be reduced at DHW’s St. Maries office.
The deciding factors in closing those offices included the number of people served by each office and the savings the department would realize through closure. “We looked at the client traffic in each of the offices and whether or not they were close to another office so that people in that area could find another office,” said DHW spokeswoman Emily Simnitt.
DHW has been closing all its offices every other Friday this year in an effort to meet shortfalls in the current budget. Simnitt said the department felt that permanently closing some offices is a better solution to its shrinking budget than Friday closures. “That was more of a temporary solution to try and manage with our reduced personnel budget,” she said. “We know that our budget has been reduced permanently going forward, and we needed to find a permanent solution. This will help us be able to better manage our work and to continue to do our best to help people receive the services that they need.” A DHW news release says the closures will cause hardship and inconvenience for many people, but resources are not available to continue the current level of office support.
Closing the nine offices will lead to 21 positions being eliminated. Along with the 32 layoffs in Boise, 73 workers at other DHW offices and institutions will be without work in two months.
DHW will also need to reduce spending in other budgets, including Medicaid, which takes up 75 percent of DHW’s budget. “We are continuing to work on that within the guidelines that the Legislature set, working with providers to try to find some savings,” Simnitt said.
STAY CONNECTED with the latest news, research and opinions from the Gem State.