News of Riverton, Lander and Fremont County, Wyoming, from the Ranger's award winning journalists.
Residents, officials mull future of WLRC
Apr 14, 2013 - By Eric Blom, Staff Writer
In February, the Wyoming Legislature directed the Department of Health to conduct a study of the Wyoming Life Resource Center to determine how the facility could be more efficient.
State officials conducting a study of the Wyoming Life Resource Center answered questions from concerned local government officials and residents March 29.
"My personal preference, I think it's a mistake to close (Wyoming's) only ICF," Wyoming Department of Health director Tom Forslund said referring to WLRC, an intermediate care facility. "It certainly wouldn't be my recommendation, but I think it needs to get more efficient and figure out how to operate with less funds going to it while still providing quality services."
In February, the Legislature directed the Department of Health to conduct a study of WLRC by November to see what kind of program would best serve its clients, and how the mental health and brain injury facility could be more efficient.
One woman questioned the investigation's direction, asking what would happen if the study found all the clients need to stay at the WLRC.
"Won't the state be forced in a way of meeting those financial needs?" she asked.
The Legislature designed the study, Forslund said, and it requires him to find how the facility can be more efficient and see if any clients can move to cheaper, community-based programs.
Forslund said WLRC's annual budget is about $30 million and it serves about 90 clients. The yearly cost per person is about $340,000, he said.
Forslund said 88 percent of WLRC's money goes to personnel, and cutting staff costs would be the only way to affect significantly its overall budget. There are currently 433 employees at the facility. The health department director said it was too early to say if personnel should be reduced by a specific number because the study is just starting.
WLRC superintendent Virginia Wright said the ratio of staff to clients is above a federally required minimum.
Many attendees said they are worried about funding cuts to the medical facility and are concerned the study will recommend transferring clients out of it.
State Rep. Lloyd Larsen, R-Lander, said he thinks the study will be good and will find that WLRC is the best program for its clients.
He thinks the Legislature will understand if the study found the WLRC is necessary.
"We (would) have to belly up and take care of (the clients) like we'd like our loved ones taken care of," Larsen said.
Forslund said besides the WLRC study, the Legislature directed him to cut $81 million from his department's $900 million budget by the 2015-16 biennium. Because the WLRC is one of the department's five most expensive programs it has to be considered for cuts, he said.
Lora Davidson, whose brother is a WLRC client, said if Forslund required all health programs, including the WRLC, to cut 10 percent, he could reach his budget goals.
"That is a manageable number we could deal with," she said.
Forslund said he has to conduct the study as the Legislature designed it, focusing on how the WLRC could cut costs. He said he wanted to meet with stakeholders to find out if they had helpful ideas, and he will stay open to hearing from interested parties.