Press-Republican

August 20, 2013

Board of Health busy behind the scenes

By JEFF MEYERS
Press-Republican

---- — PLATTSBURGH — A community’s health department plays a vital role in bringing a variety of health-care services to all members of the community, young and old alike.

The professionals who provide services, manage programs and distribute information to the public aim to ensure the community’s overall health and wellness continues through good times and bad.

But the myriad of nurses, technicians, scientists, administrators and staff members who carry out the daily operations of the local health department are aided by another group that often sits behind the scenes — professionals in their own sense.

“We have a diverse membership on our Board of Health,” said Jerie Reid, executive director for the Clinton County Health Department, as she discussed the Board of Health’s role, “with a broad base of expertise that allows them to look at issues from different perspectives, different experiences.

“They’re engaged, they’re helpful and they’re tied into the community.”

ONE EXTRA MEMBER

According to Clinton County Board of Health bylaws, the body must have at least seven members appointed by the Clinton County Legislature.

Three are physicians licensed to practice medicine in New York state, one is a member of the County Legislature, and three represent the public at large and are presented to the board by the city mayor or other administrative head of the city.

“We’ve added one extra member (to the eight they traditionally carry) so we can be even more diverse,” Reid said.

The board has three registered nurses — Ginny Hay, who has experience in infectious disease; Lynn Howard, with a background in serving people with special needs; and Kathleen Kazprzak, who has experience in health administration and in education as the director of the Nursing Division at Clinton Community College.

‘TREMENDOUSLY HELPFUL’

Two local business leaders also serve. 

Tom Everett owns an orchard in the county, and Ed Garrow is a local contractor who lends expertise in technical aspects of such health-related issues as properly installing septic systems.

Dr. Victor Ludwig (gastroenterology) acts as board president, while Dr. Heidi Moore (pediatrics) and Dr. Richard Lacki (family practice) also serve. 

County Legislator Dr. Jonathan Beach (Area 2, Altona) is the liaison to the Clinton County Legislature and chairman of that body’s Health Committee.

“This group of people is tremendously helpful,” Reid said. “They are energized, dedicated, and all have ties with the community. 

“It’s a nicely balanced group.”

SOUNDING BOARD

The board acts as a sounding board and source of guidance for Reid and her staff.

“Anything could become an issue,” she said. “New developments in public-health service, current trends happening locally and across the nation. We look to them for guidance: Is this the direction we should be going? Should we be doing anything differently?”

Whenever new regulatory requirements surface, the Health Department goes to the Board of Health for its approval and for recommendations in how to best go forward. The board is also involved in any regulatory enforcement problems that may arise.

“When the State Health Department is looking at doing something new across the state, we bring it to the local board for their input,” Reid said. “They provide us with valuable information on what potential impact (new regulations) may have on the community.”

OPEN MEETINGS

Health Department staff members also attend meetings with the Board of Health to provide updates on special programs and services being offered in Clinton County.

Beach also plays a special role in passing information from the Health Department to the County Legislature and the county administrator, Reid added.

“If people have questions (about health-related issues), they will often call their legislator,” she said. “It’s important that the legislature knows who to call.”

Board of Health meetings are held a minimum of eight times yearly. All are open to the public.

The Clinton County Board of Health was first organized on Jan. 6, 1954, with area physicians Dr. William Ladue, Dr. Philip Barton, Dr. Gilbert Ganong and Dr. Harold Singer providing medical expertise to that initial body.

Other initial members were area veterinarian Walter Gilroy, Bruce McGregor, Anthime Latourelle and Leonard Gadway.

Email Jeff Meyers:jmeyers@pressrepublican.com