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Merger Plan for Public Health and Mental Health Departments Approved

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Merger Plan for Public Health and Mental Health Departments Approved

Tuesday, December 17, 2019

Following six months on intensive Task Force study and a month of thoughtful review by legislators, the Legislature authorized the County to move ahead and implement a plan to merge the County’s Departments of Public Health and Mental Health into one department, identifying the responsibilities of departmental leadership of the two departments to be provided in a merged model, with full merger of the Departments to take effect as of July 2021.  The vote was 11-3, with Legislators Dan Klein, Leslyn McBean-Clairborne, and Henry Granison voting no.  The fully merged structure would replace the shared leadership model, which has been in effect for the past four years. 

Mirroring findings of the Task Force, the resolution notes that “one department will best meet the needs of the clients, staff, and community as public health and mental health will function not just as opportunistic collaborating partners but will be working side-by-side to support progress toward achieving one single vision, and that as a single department, staff members will operate under a shared vision to support clients in achieving better health-related outcomes, be it mental or physical, both at the individual and community level.”

As part of the discussion before the approval vote, Legislator Mike Sigler raised the question of how to balance what he sees as the largely individualized approach of the Mental Health Department with the frequent Public Health focus on larger wide-ranging issues.  Frank Kruppa, who directs both departments remarked that there are strengths in both departments, and each can benefit the other.  Looking ahead to the process ahead, Legislator Deborah Dawson said she hopes the County takes advantage of planning expertise within the departments; Legislator Amanda Champion said she’d encourage that the planning process set measurable goals to assess whether the plan is working and makes sense.  Legislator Granison asked about financial aspects and why the study was pursued from a revenue-neutral perspective.

Following the approval vote, Chair Robertson thanked all who were involved in the process, and department head Frank Kruppa for his leadership of the Public Health and Mental Health Departments over the past four years.

The Task Force Report on the Public Health/Mental Health leadership structure is posted on the County website, at http://tompkinscountyny.gov/health/taskforcereport.