TOMPKINS COUNTY, NY – The new Total Health Department is just a public hearing away from formal construction, and this public hearing will be scheduled for early November.
Although the merger between the county’s Department of Public Health and the Department of Mental Health was approved by the Tompkins County Legislature in 2019, it has been sidelined by COVID-19. It was back on track earlier this year and nearing completion, and the resolution allowing a public hearing to activate the merger was passed unanimously at the Legislature’s October 17 Health and Human Services Committee meeting (meeting can be seen) over herecan be found on the agenda over here.)
“This is the formal process of bringing the two departments together, and it’s creating one new Department of Total Health,” said Director of Public Health Frank Krupa, adding that the new department “includes many of the same roles and requirements” that two departments previously held.
When the consolidation is completed under one new department name, the title of Kruppa’s position will become ‘Commissioner of Full Health’.
During the county management update, Administrator Lisa Holmes said the county is working on the early stages of a strategic plan. She also said the Human Services Building is working with a private security company to increase the safety of the building. Sometime next month, a $100,000 grant for veteran peer-to-peer services will be on the agenda for acceptance by the county.
Acitivst Theresa Alt made a public comment in support of the Dryden House project, saying she was surprised to find that local taxes were not helping to fund the project. On the same subject, a resolution passed unanimously authorizing the county’s contribution of $70,000 to help fund the Dryden House project, as well as $50,000 from the town of Dryden and $227,000 in contributions raised privately by the project’s developer.
The project is a “four-unit permanent supportive housing project in Dryden Village for women and children experiencing homelessness,” said Elliot Penman, housing and community development planner. The project will consist of a new building on the site of the existing structures that had previously burned down.
In a quick update of the newly created opioid task force, legislator Dan Klein said the task force has been formally formed and its first meeting will be coordinated soon.
Harmony Ayers-Friedlander spoke about the need to increase the number of early intervention providers, saying that the team currently caters to a “wide range of mental health needs from adjustment issues to serious mental illness,” with a team of five psychosocial workers, a child psychiatrist, a nurse practitioner Trained in social work.
The program currently works with approximately 300 children, youth, and families through both the clinic and elementary, middle, and high schools across the county.
Shifting gears a bit, to discuss the recent spike in COVID cases that led the county to adjust to Moderate societal transmission levelLawmaker Veronica Pilar asked Kruppa about current community guidelines for reducing spread and staying healthy.
Krupa replied that the bump in cases was to be expected, and that “COVID will not go away.” He added that it is difficult to obtain an accurate picture of the total number of cases due to the daily self-examinations. In addition, he said, the main reason for the increase in the level of transmission in the community is due to the high number of hospitalized cases, which have since declined.
The county still recommends that high-risk and elderly people stay indoors, and once the back-to-school vaccines are out, the county will likely start offering COVID-booster clinics again.
Code Blue also came back into effect recently because of the season, and there are 134 adults and 33 children in the program already, according to Kit Kephart at the Department of Social Services.