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Orleans and Genesee are first in NY to merge Health Department boards

By Tom Rivers, Editor Posted 1 July 2015 at 12:00 am

ALBION – Orleans and Genesee counties made history in the state in October 2012 when they started sharing a public health director.

Paul Pettit, the director in Orleans County, took on the Genesee County duties at that time, working in both counties. Since then the two counties have added other shared Health Department staff and contracts, including for busing preschool children with disabilities.

The shared services are saving Orleans County about $400,000 a year, Pettit said.

The two counties are making history again with a joint Genesee/Orleans Board of Health. The two counties had maintained separate boards of health, with Pettit and staff answering to the two boards.

Effective today, the joint board takes effect. The board includes seven members and they will meet every two months on the third Tuesday, alternating locations in the two counties.

The State Legislature passed legislation allowing for the joint board. It will be in place for the next five years.

“This is another layer of integration and oversight,” Pettit said.

The board sets policy and serves as the regulatory arm for the Health Departments in the two counties, Pettit said.

“It gives one board to go through and receive direction,” he said.

There are at least five shared staff members for the two counties. Pettit said the two Health Departments “tip toed” into the joint efforts. The agreement has worked well, saving money and allowing staff to work with their strengths.

The two counties combined are about 900 square miles in area, which is smaller than some Western New York and Southern Tier counties, including Chautauqua, Cattaraugus, Steuben and Allegany counties. Some of those counties with large geographical territories have satellite offices to serve those sprawling counties.

The board members for the joint board of health include Orleans County Legislator John DeFilipps, Genesee County Legislator Ed Dejaneiro, Medina pharmacist Paul Grout, Genesee County physicians Kelly Rose Nichols and Mary Obear, Orleans County physician Satya Sahukar and Deanna Page, an at-large member from Genesee County.