Saratoga County may get state funding to expand health department

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BALLSTON SPA — Saratoga County has grown so much over the years that responsibilities once handled by the state Department of Health will now be transitioned over to the county, a project that could receive $1.6 million in funding in the 2023-24 state budget. 

State law requires all counties with more than 250,000 residents to provide a wide range of public health services through a department headed by a medical doctor. Saratoga County’s population is estimated at over 237,000, according to 2021 Census data.

Health Department Commissioner Dr. Daniel Kuhles said the county Health Department is working to take over environmental health responsibilities from the state. This would mean instead of the state overseeing programs like inspecting restaurants, enforcement of the Clean Indoor Air Act and lead poisoning prevention and control, the county will. 

“It’s not like there are unpermitted facilities in the county, it’s just right now the state Health Department is permitting and inspecting those and running these programs,” Kuhles said. “Over the next 2 1/2 years or so we’ll be taking them over and working closely with them to make sure that the handoff is seamless so that we absolutely protect the health and safety of our residents and to make sure that our permitted facilities and businesses have the information and education that they need.”

Assemblywoman Carrier Woerner, D-Saratoga Springs, recently announced that there is $1.6 million in grant money in both the governor’s executive budget proposal and budget proposals in both houses of the state Legislature to aid the county in its expansion.

In a press release Woerner thanked Saratoga County Chairman Todd Kusnierz Jr. and Kuhles for working with her to secure the funding in the budget proposals. 

“I also thank Governor [Kathy] Hochul for including these funds in her budget proposal,” she said. “Additionally, I thank the staff at the state Department of Health for their partnership with Saratoga County to ensure a seamless transition to a full-service county Health Department.”

By April the county anticipates that the Health Department will take on four more programs from the state, said Phil Barrett, the Clifton Park supervisor and chairman of the Health and Human Services Committee, in a press release. 

He did not indicate which four programs the county would take over. 

“These funds will offset the cost of recruitment, hiring and training of new staff, the purchase of equipment and supplies as well as capital expenses as the county Environmental Health unit continues to grow,” Barrett said. “We are grateful to Assemblywoman Woerner for her assistance in ensuring this funding will be earmarked for Saratoga County.”

Some of the costs the county incurs while expanding the Health Department will be offset by revenues the department will generate after eventually taking on some of the programs, said Christine Rush, the county director of public relations. 

Kuhles said the county also receives state aid reimbursement.

Categories: Clifton Park and Halfmoon, News, News, Saratoga County, Saratoga Springs

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