Stories indexed with the term ‘medical director’

County Board Focuses on Public Health Issues

Washtenaw County board of commissioners meeting (June 6, 2012): Several action items at the most recent county board meeting related to public health, but the one that drew the most discussion did not require a vote: A new program by the public health department to ban the sale of synthetic drugs.

Leah Gunn, Conan Smith

Washtenaw County commissioners Leah Gunn and Conan Smith, who both represent districts in Ann Arbor, exchange hand gestures before the start of the June 6, 2012 board of commissioners meeting. (Photos by the writer.)

Commissioners were briefed by Dick Fleece, the county’s top public health official, about the new effort to eliminate the sale of synthetic marijuana – known as “spice” and sold legally as K2, Yucatan Fire and other brand names – as well as other synthetic drugs. The “carrot-and-stick” approach will encourage businesses to remove the products voluntarily, Fleece said, and highlight that decision with a decal that stores can use to indicate compliance. But if businesses don’t comply, the county has the authority to issue a public health order against them and, if necessary, get a court injunction to force compliance.

While commissioners acknowledged that synthetic drugs are dangerous – effects can include hallucinations, aggression, paranoia, and seizures – there were some questions for Fleece about why the county is targeting these particular products, which are sold legally. Fleece indicated that there’s heightened concern among residents and coverage of the issue in nearly every media outlet nationally. Some commissioners expressed skepticism about the approach, indicating a preference for a broader educational campaign about the dangers of legal and illegal substances.

Other public health items on the June 6 agenda included hiring Alice Penrose as the county’s new medical director, and approving the application for a state grant to pay for water quality monitoring at five local beaches. The board also appointed 15 members to the new Washtenaw Food Policy Council, and approved the application for federal funding of a summer meal program for low-income children.

Commissioners also voted to schedule a special working session on June 14 to discuss a four-party public transit agreement that’s intended to set the stage for a possible countywide transit authority. A new transit authority – tentatively called The Washtenaw Ride – would expand the governance and service area of the Ann Arbor Transportation Authority. Some commissioners intend to bring forward amendments to the agreement, which the board is expected to vote on at its regular July 11 meeting. If the county board does amend the four-party agreement, it would need to be reconsidered by the other three entities involved, which have already approved it: the city councils of Ann Arbor and Ypsilanti, and the AATA board.

During the time allotted for communications, commissioners discussed the decision by the state not to reimburse local communities for emergency expenses related to the March 15 tornado touchdown near Dexter. Also, Verna McDaniel highlighted the state’s approval of a $1 million grant to fund brownfield cleanup at the former Georgetown Mall in Ann Arbor, for a residential project called Packard Square. The board had approved the grant application a year ago, following a contentious discussion about the project.

Other actions during the June 6 meeting included: (1) authorizing a grant agreement for up to $60,000 in emergency housing assistance for residents facing eviction from Camp Take Notice; (2) taking a final vote to set the 2012 county general operating millage rate at 4.5493 mills; and (3) giving final approval for re-funding of previously-issued bonds, a move that’s expected to save $889,000 over the life of the bond repayments. [Full Story]

Penrose Hired as County Medical Director

Washtenaw County commissioners authorized the hiring of Alice Penrose as the county’s public health medical director, effective July 30 at a salary of $130,000. The position is currently vacant, and those state-mandated services are being provided under contract with the Oakland County medical director, Pamela Hackert. Both Penrose and Hackert attended the board’s June 6, 2012 meeting, when the board voted on this item.

The previous medical director, Monique Reeves, had been appointed by the board just a year ago at the June 1, 2011 board meeting, with a salary of $125,000. Reeves tendered her resignation in a letter dated March 15, 2012 and effective April 13. In the letter, which did not indicate her reason for resigning, Reeves states: ”It was my … [Full Story]

County Funds Nonprofits, Sets Deputy Price

Washtenaw County board of commissioners meeting (June 1, 2011): Budget issues again occupied commissioners’ focus at this month’s county board meeting. The board took an initial vote to set the price for a contract sheriff’s deputy and to approve funding for local nonprofits.

Dick Fleece, Monique Reeves, Kelly Belknap, Wes Prater

From left: Washtenaw County public health officer Dick Fleece, newly appointed public health medical director Monique Reeves, interim deputy county administrator Kelly Belknap, and county commissioner Wes Prater. Commissioners approved the hiring of Reeves at their June 1 meeting. (Photos by the writer.)

While the board’s previous meeting drew supporters from a range of human services groups, on Wednesday most public commenters spoke against funding of one specific nonprofit: Planned Parenthood of Mid and South Michigan. Their arguments on financial and moral grounds were ultimately unpersuasive to commissioners, who voted unanimously to approve support for Planned Parenthood and several other agencies, totaling $1.015 million through fiscal year 2013, including $53,040 from the county for Planned Parenthood.

Two commissioners raised concerns that county funding for human services in general is inadequate, especially in light of proposed changes that could bump thousands of beneficiaries statewide off the welfare rolls later this year.

In a vote that also holds budget implications, the board’s move to set the price for a contract sheriff’s deputy was remarkable mainly for its lack of debate – historically it’s been a contentious issue. Commissioners gave initial approval without comment. The price set in 2012 for a police services unit (PSU) is $150,594 – unchanged from this year. That’s followed by 1% annual increases through 2015. The difference between the actual cost of a PSU and the amount charged – roughly $25,500, based on current figures – would be covered by the county. The item will return to the board’s July 6 meeting for a final vote.

Meanwhile, a 2006 lawsuit filed against the county over the amount it charged at that time for contract deputies remains unresolved. Judge Joseph Costello of the 38th Circuit Court Chief has ordered the county and Augusta and Ypsilanti townships into non-binding facilitation, in a meeting set for June 22.

During Wednesday’s meeting, commissioners also approved a raft of other items, including: (1) the hiring of Monique Reeves as new medical director; and (2) five drain projects in Ann Arbor that require bonds backed by the county’s full faith and credit. The board also voted to add five new working sessions to its calendar: on June 16, July 21, Aug. 18, Sept. 15 and Oct. 13. All are focused on the 2012-2013 budget.

Finally, at the end of its meeting the board went into executive session for about an hour to address three issues: (1) a collective bargaining strategy; (2) possible settlement of pending litigation; and (3) review of a legal opinion. [Full Story]

County Board OKs New Medical Director Hire

Diana Torres-Burgos, the county’s public health medical director, recently announced her resignation – she’ll be leaving her job later this month. At its June 1, 2011 meeting, the Washtenaw County board of commissioners approved the hire of her replacement – Monique Reeves. Reeves received her medical degree and a masters degree in public health from the University of Michigan, and will start the job on June 20 with a salary of $125,000.

Medicare services provided by the county – including immunizations and the maternal infant health program – require that a licensed medical doctor on staff bill Medicare, via the state, for reimbursement.

This brief was filed from the boardroom of the county administration building at 220 N. Main St. in Ann Arbor. A more detailed report will follow: [link] [Full Story]