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Onondaga County Medical Society calls health program realignment a poor decision

The Onondaga County Medical Society has taken an official stance against the proposed realignment of the Human Services Division of Onondaga County's government. The physicians organization believes the plan to take the Maternal Health and Child Wellness programs out of the purview of the Health Department is a bad move.

The organization has six major concerns about the move, says society treasurer Dr. Richard Beers. He says it starts with the unintended consequences of changing the relationship doctors already have with health care providers involved in the county’s programs.

"They utilize the services and know when to put them in effect for patients and families, and these relationships will be disrupted," Beers said.

The society has issued a statement that says members believe taking these programs out of the umbrella of the Health Department and moving them to the Department of Child and Family Services would be detrimental to public health.
“Our concern there is that this well oiled machine will be displaced, and put in a new structure," Beers said. "It’s generally not under Family and Health Services in New York state.”

There are also concerns that vulnerable families might not want to get health services from the same arm of government that is associated with child protective services. Then there are questions about whether grants, which currently fund many of these wellness programs, are in jeopardy.

Beers says it just makes sense to keep medical officials in charge of health programs that affect vulnerable families.

“Now we’re going down an untested path, and putting this service in the hands of another division that is more associated with regulatory and administrative and enforcement functions rather than providing for the health and welfare of the citizen,” Beers explained.

Ultimately, he says the organization believes health care professionals are best suited to helping these families.

"It needs to be overseen by a health care professional who understands these, not by someone who is not involved in health care, and not aware of what goes on in the trenches within these programs and direct care to patients," Beers said.

The Onondaga County Medical Society hopes this message gets to the state Department of Health, which Beers says has not weighed in on the issue, and to the Onondaga County lawmakers who will make the budget decisions this fall that would pay for the realignment.

County officials say they are changing things to make services to the community more seamless, and say they will hire a medical director to oversee these programs.

Ellen produces news reports and features related to events that occur in the greater Syracuse area and throughout Onondaga County. Her reports are heard regularly in regional updates in Morning Edition and All Things Considered.