Schenectady County

Schenectady County to appoint full-time public health director

Keith Brown, interim director of Schenectady Health Public Service, stands outside the Schenectady Inner City Mission on Albany Street in Schenectady, where the Service hosts a weekly COVID-19 vaccination site on Thursday, June 3, 2021. Brown is expected to be permanently appointed as the Service's full time director during the Schenectady County Legislature's next meeting on Tuesday, Dec. 13, 2022. 
PHOTOGRAPHER:

Keith Brown, interim director of Schenectady Health Public Service, stands outside the Schenectady Inner City Mission on Albany Street in Schenectady, where the Service hosts a weekly COVID-19 vaccination site on Thursday, June 3, 2021. Brown is expected to be permanently appointed as the Service's full time director during the Schenectady County Legislature's next meeting on Tuesday, Dec. 13, 2022. 

SCHENECTADY — After serving for more than two years as the interim director of Schenectady County Public Health, Keith Brown is on track to assume the position full time.

The county legislature’s Committee on Health, Housing and Human Services on Monday unanimously approved a resolution appointing Brown the full-time director of the department after County Manager Rory Fluman appointed him for the position. 

Brown’s confirmation still needs to be approved by the full legislature, which will vote on his nomination at its meeting next week. If approved, the appointment would take effect Dec. 14. 

“I’ve been honored to serve in an interim capacity and working with you folks has been a real highlight of my career,” Brown told lawmakers.

A graduate of the universities at Buffalo and Albany — where he graduated with a bachelor’s degree in community mental health and a master’s in public health, respectively — Brown has spent 16 years in the public health field, having served in a number of leadership positions at private sector organizations throughout New York, including Catholic Charities and Katal Center of Health, Equity and Justice in Albany.

At Catholic Charities, Brown served at the associate executive director and then executive director for the organization’s care coordination services for a combined 10 years. During his tenure, he worked to implement initiatives and harm reduction services related to HIV, AIDS and opioid overdoses, before moving onto Katal Center for three years, where he focused on developing public health polices, according to an appointment letter Fluman wrote to lawmakers seeking Brown’s appointment. 

In December 2019, Brown was tapped to be the director of community health and safety for the Buffalo-based technology firm RPRT, where he served until leaving in August 2020 to become the interim director of public health in Schenectady County following the sudden departure of former director Lisa Ayers. 

As interim director, Brown has led the county’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic, including adhering to guidelines put in place by state, as well as the vaccine rollout that began in the winter of 2020. 

Michelle Ostrelich, a District 3 representative who chairs the Health, Housing and Human Services Committee, said Brown has demonstrated impressive leadership during the pandemic while keeping equity at the forefront.

“I’ve had the pleasure of experiencing his leadership throughout the pandemic as well as his incredible perspective on public health, which puts equity at the forefront, and I do appreciate that,” she said.

To date, 126,813 out of the county’s 155,350 population have completed the primary series of the COVID vaccine, the equivalent of 81.6%, according to state data. Neighboring Albany and Saratoga counties have vaccination rates of 76% (the equivalent of 233,354 out of 307,117 residents) and 77% (equal to 177,169 out of 230,163 residents), respectively. 

The numbers of vaccinated children drop significantly in Schenectady County for children 4 and under, and between the ages of 5 and 11, where the rates for primary vaccination rates are 7.6% and 44.3%, respectively. 

The county was averaging 13.4 COVID cases per 100,000 residents over the last seven days preceding Dec. 8, the most recent state data available. The eight county Capital Region had an average rate of 27.1 cases per 100,000 residents over that same period.  

A number of other public health emergencies cropped up during the same period, including the reemergence of polio and mpox, the virus formerly known as monkeypox. No cases of polio were reported in Schenectady County, and just one case of mpox was confirmed. 

Brown said he was initially nervous about taking the interim director role due to the “governmental work,” but noted he settled into the position, something he credited the county Legislature and staff at the public health department for. 

“I have to say between my team at public health and working with you all — it feels like the right place to be,” he said. “I would be honored to continue serving the place where I live and my family calls home in Schenectady County for as long as you’ll have me.”

The county legislature is expected to approve Brown’s nomination during its Dec. 13 meeting, which is scheduled to take place at 7 p.m. at the county office building at 620 State St., Schenectady.

Contact reporter Chad Arnold at: [email protected] or by calling 518-395-3120.

Categories: News, News, Schenectady County

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