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Legislature Extends Arrangement for Shared Leadership of Health and Mental Health Departments

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Legislature Extends Arrangement for Shared Leadership of Health and Mental Health Departments

Tuesday, December 15, 2015

The Tompkins County Legislature has voted to authorize continued shared leadership of the Health and Mental Health Departments, by County Public Health Director Frank Kruppa, extending the interim arrangement that has been in place for the past eight months.

Considering four alternate proposed resolutions on the issue, Legislators, after nearly an hour of discussion, approved a modified version of a member-filed compromise resolution advanced by Legislator Carol Chock, which authorizes the plan to extend the Public Health Director’s interim dual management through the end of 2018, plus such additional time in 2019 as is necessary to evaluate the performance of the combined department head model, determine whether it shall continue, consider other organizational alternatives, and accommodate any necessary organizational transition. It also calls for other necessary changes to facilitate the plan, including the hiring of a Deputy Commissioner of Mental Health and Administrative Assistant. Following a number of procedural votes and amendments, the final approval came by an 11-3 margin, with Legislators Leslyn McBean-Clairborne, Dooley Kiefer, and Dan Klein voting no. Early-on in the discussion, Mr. Klein said he believed the Legislature should be acting on the administrative structure that should be in place, apart from the individual providing that service.

As part of the series of votes, Legislator Will Burbank advanced the alternate approach he had initially proposed, and had been recommended by the Health and Human Services Committee, which would have called for renewing the search for a Commissioner of Mental Health, while also forming a task force to analyze the operational structure. That proposed substitution was not approved—the vote, 4-10, with Legislators Burbank, McBean-Clairborne, Kiefer, and Klein voting in favor.

As of early 2019, the measure approved commits the County to conducting a 360-degree-style performance review of the current arrangement to evaluate how well the interim administrative solution is working from the perspective of staff, boards, community members, and other stakeholders, and to forming a task force to examine the operations and consider the future directions or both the Health and Mental Health Departments. That effort will include consideration of the advantages and disadvantages of an administrative partial or full merger, identification of the various aspects of their operations and any functions that might be combined, and any lessons that can be learned from other counties that have merged these particular functions. By the end of 2019, majority approval of the Legislature would be required to reauthorize the combined department head model.