Budget cuts force closure of popular program for at-risk moms

TACOMA, Wash. -- Counselors at a popular Tacoma program for at-risk mothers could soon be out of a job.

The Board of Health in Tacoma/Pierce County found out Wednesday that the MOMS program will have to go unless somebody else can run it.

That's bad news for those who have gone through the program. Some graduates, such as Camryn Ramirez, say it was vital to their survival.

Prior to the birth of her son, Ramirez said she was on the streets looking to feed her cocaine addiction.

"My life was using drugs all day and focusing every minute of my day on drugs and how I could get it," she said.

The week her son was born, she found out about MOMS, or Maternal Outpatient Management and Support.

"The MOMS program gave me a place to come and be around other women that were trying to change their life in recovery," she said.

On Wednesday the Health Department announced the program will end October 1.

"Public health funding is under fire from literally every direction, and we are in the middle of making many difficult choices," said Edie Jeffers with the Tacoma Pierce County Health Department.

The department has a $188,000 shortfall for 2013 and cannot afford to operate the program.

Ramirez said other mothers will suffer the consequences if the program goes away.

"It's going affect every aspect of life," she said. "CPS, jails, mental health."

Health Department officials say tough decisions have to be made because of all the budget cuts, and it's their hope that some other entity will pick up the MOMS program.

Pierce County Executive Pat McCarthy said that's something they're hoping to achieve.

"I find it hard to let go of any program that's really meeting the demand and a need in our community," McCarthy said.

Ramirez said anyone who's wondering whether the MOMS program really works just needs to look at her life. On Wednesday she was honored by Hope Sparks and was the featured speaker at its fundraising luncheon.

"I am evidence of what can happen to a person who wants to change their life," she said during the speech.

Ramirez is now a hospital administration student. The MOMS program serves between 130 and 170 women.