Orleans, Genesee celebrate 10 years of shared public health services

Photos by Tom Rivers: Orleans County Legislator Don Allport, left, last week presents a proclamation celebrating the 10-year partnership of the Genesee and Orleans County Health Departments. Allport shakes hands with Paul Pettit, public health director of GO health; Ron Mannella, Weights and Measures director for the two counties; and Kristine Voss, epidemiology coordinator for the two counties.

By Tom Rivers, Editor Posted 1 November 2022 at 9:48 am

ALBION – The County Legislatures in both Genesee and Orleans counties last week celebrated a 10-year partnership among the two counties with shared public health services.

The two counties combined employ about 50 employees in public health. Each county has its own health department, but they share seven department heads, including Paul Pettit as the public health director. The two counties also have a merged Board of Health.

One county can also pull from another county if there is a staffing need, such as a vaccination clinic. Working as integrated departments has allowed the two departments to better balance surges over the past 2 1/2 years with Covid testing, vaccinations and providing communications in a cohesive manner, county officials said.

Paul Pettit, the public health director for the two counties, recalled when 10 years the initial resolution for shared services was approved by the Orleans County Legislature in Albion, and then later that evening by the Genesee County Legislature in Batavia. Pettit drove from Albion to Batavia to be on hand for what turned out to be historic resolutions.

Orleans and Genesee officials have shared with other counties around the state and nation about the partnership, advising how others could do it, too. But Pettit said he doesn’t know of another long-lasting partnership among two counties.

He praised the staff at GO Health and also the elected leadership and county administration in both counties for making the agreement work.

“We couldn’t do it without the support of the Orleans County Legislature and Genesee County Legislature,” Pettit said. “There is trust between the two counties. We’ve been forward-thinking.”

He noted the partnership has continued even with changes on the legislature and with the top administrators in each county.

Orleans County Legislator Don Allport thanks staff members at the local health departments for their service. From left include Paul Pettit, public health director of GO health; Ron Mannella, Weights and Measures director for the two counties; and Kristine Voss, epidemiology coordinator for the two counties, Nola Goodrich-Kresse, public information officer; Kim Castricone, administrative officer; Carrie Doty, principal financial clerk; and Sherri Bensley, case manager.

“Whereas, the residents of Genesee and Orleans counties have benefitted fiscally and operationally in the ongoing agreement,” according to a resolution signed last week by Lynne Johnson, chairwoman of the Orleans County Legislature, and Rochelle Stein, chairwoman of the Genesee County Legislature.

Genesee and Orleans Health Departments (GO health) have received joint county grants for public health initiatives in the two counties. The partnership has allowed the two counties to fill workforce gaps, drive efficiencies and look for innovative ways to advance the two-county collaboration, according to a proclamation from both legislatures.

The two counties look forward to working together “for the foreseeable future.” The two county legislatures urged the community to celebrate the 10-year milestone of integrated services and better opportunities in public health.

Stein, during remarks on Wednesday, said she is impressed how the partnership has grown over the decade.

“We do want more for our communities,” Stein said. “We couldn’t be prouder of the staff with their dedication to serve both counties.”