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What you need to know for 01/20/2017

Two leaders sought for Saratoga County health agencies

Two leaders sought for Saratoga County health agencies

Saratoga County is searching for new department heads for both its mental health and public health a

Saratoga County is searching for new department heads for both its mental health and public health agencies.

This week, the county began advertising on its website for a new director of community mental health services, following the retirement of Hans Lehr.

The director of public health nursing’s post, meanwhile, has been vacant since last fall, and the county is currently taking applications, said County Administrator Spencer P. Hellwig.

County officials said that even though both departments involve the county’s public health responsibilities, the vacancy situations are unrelated.

Former county public health nursing director Karen Levison left for another job, while Lehr moved up his retirement after his Saratoga Springs home sold more quickly than expected, said Stillwater Supervisor Ed Kinowski, chairman of the county’s Public Health Committee.

“Hans did a wonderful job, and he got [the department] moved into a new facility,” Kinowski said.

Lehr had worked for the county since 1995, and became director of mental health in 2011. Last year he oversaw the department’s move into a former car dealership on South Broadway in Saratoga Springs, after Saratoga Hospital made plans to demolish the building that the agency had rented from the hospital for many years.

The base salary for the position is $95,338. While Lehr had a social-work background, Hellwig said someone with a strong business background also could be a candidate. “It has a multimillion-dollar budget, so it’s not just [strength in] the service side,” he said.

The mental health department has a nearly $11 million annual budget. It operates an outpatient clinic, a day-treatment program, and an alcoholism-treatment program, with an average of 1,700 to 2,000 active cases at any given time. Most of its costs are covered by federal and state aid.

The public health nursing director’s post is advertised with a $59,816 base salary, making it unlikely a medical doctor will apply.

In the past, the directors have had nursing or public health administration backgrounds. But the state Health Department in the past has pushed the county to start doing environmental health inspections, which by state law would require creating a public health department headed by a doctor.

The department, based in Saratoga Springs, is currently made up of nurses and educators who provide in-home patient care, hold clinics and screenings and provide disease education. They do not, however, respond to environmental issues or do restaurant inspections, as a full-service health department would.

There’s been no recent state pressure to add services, according to Kinowski. “We have not heard from them in the last six months or so,” he said Friday.

The state Health Department will need to approve whoever the county selects, Hellwig said.

By state law, the county will need to establish a full-service health department if its population reaches 250,000.

The county has been among the fastest-growing in the state for decades. It currently has 220,000 residents, and some projections have it approaching 250,000 by 2030.

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