County officials are concerned that passage of Proposition 200 may be reducing the number of women seeking prenatal care and food through the Women, Infants and Children program.
The program experienced a drop of more than 2,000 participants from August 2004 to February.
Officials speculate that clients are staying away because they mistakenly think Proposition 200 applies to the program, also known as WIC.
“I’ve received 30 to 40 calls from women asking if they’ll get deported if they come in,” said Lionel Ballestos, a WIC public health aide. “They ask if the police are going to be here. I tell them no, but they don’t believe me.”
Overall enrollment in the program has dropped 12 percent since August. The steepest decline has come since Proposition 200 passed in November.
Statewide enrollment figures through December show a drop of 5 percent.
“This is the first time I’ve seen a trend like this in the 20 years I’ve been with WIC,” Mellan said.