Legislature Conducts County Department Reviews
The departments of Health and Mental Hygiene were reviewed at the Budget, Finance and Personnel Committee of the Dutchess County Legislature held on Monday. Following the presentations by the Dr. Kari Reiber, MD, Commissioner of Health, and Kenneth M. Glatt, Ph.D., ABPP, Commissioner of Mental Hygiene at the committee meeting earlier this month, Dale Borchert, Chairman of the Budget, Finance and Personnel Committee led the review. The departments are responsible for implementing many of the Federal and State mandated programs including the State Public Health Law, enforcing the sanitary code, and implementing the Local Government Unit in addition to programs that are considered to be discretionary.
The Department of Health (DOH) is responsible for providing assessment, protection, and to promote the health of our communities and our environment. The many services provided by DOH are mandated, although the department has discretion over how they are implemented. Programs administered by the DOH include the federally mandated Early Intervention and Preschool Special Education programs that serve children from birth to age 5 with special needs. Optional public health services include the Medical Examiner Program that conducts Autopsies, administering Flu vaccinations and providing services to Veterans.
Per Section 41.05 of NYS Mental Hygiene Law, the County is responsible for the planning, oversight, development, and provision of comprehensive community based programs under the direction of the Department of Mental Hygiene (DMH). The department provides prevention, treatment, and rehabilitation services and programs to those who are emotionally disturbed, mentally ill, developmental disabled, and/ or chemically dependent. Even the most critical services provided or overseen by DMH are discretionary. DMH coordinates with contract agencies such as the Hudson Valley Mental Health, Inc., Lexington Center for Recovery, Inc., Occupations, Inc. and Mental Health America in Dutchess County to provide an array of services in accordance with Local Governmental Unit obligations.
Dale Borchert stated, “The Center for Governmental Research, Inc. provided an assessment in February 2014 of the Department of Health and the Department of Mental Hygiene. With the decline in personnel and funding, the County has struggled with the ongoing pressure to provide both mandated and desired non-mandated services. Administrative functions may present an opportunity for more collaboration and shared service as a cost savings measure and to limit overlap and inefficiencies.”
Chairman of the Dutchess County Legislature Rob Rolison stated, “The purpose of conducting department reviews is to account for tax dollars and determine areas where greater efficiencies or consolidation might yield taxpayer savings. As funding and service-provision models have changed with the Federal Affordable Care Act and the impact of the Hudson River Psychiatric Center closure, the County’s delivery of Health and Mental Hygiene services is an area for evaluation to consider the means tostrengthen delivery of services, maximize resources and increase efficiencies with greater integration. Both the departments provide essential services to the community and ensure that our residents have access to care with the highest quality treatment available. We must continue to strive in providing needed treatment services to all.”