Lawrence-Douglas County Public Health board unsure who will lead the health department during gap between directors
photo by: Contributed and Journal-World File Photos
Lawrence-Douglas County Public Health’s search for its next director is moving into the active recruitment stage, but the tentative timeline may mean the health department’s board has to come up with an interim leader to serve as a representative during the looming city and county budget processes.
The health department’s current director, Dan Partridge, announced his intent to retire last November, effective June 15. But according to Erika Dvorske, the health department board member leading the committee to aid in the director transition process, the target start date for the next director is weeks later on July 5.
The hiring process is on track to make that happen, Dvorske told the board during its monthly meeting Monday evening. Dvorske said Scion Executive Search, the firm the board approved working with to hire a new director last month, is expected to have candidates selected for interviews by early May and pared down to a list of finalists by the last week of the month.
“At this point in time — because we just don’t know, there’s a whole lot of things that could happen — I would suggest that a two to three week window is something that wouldn’t necessarily demand an interim (director), but I think if we’re moving beyond that then we would want to revisit this topic and consider an interim,” Dvorske said.
Regardless of whether the hiring process takes longer than July 5, that date falls right around when the Douglas County Commission typically begins hosting budget hearings with community partner agencies like the health department. Partridge noted that there will need to be someone there to represent the health department it in those discussions, but who that might be wasn’t set in stone by the end of Monday’s meeting.
Another board member, Erica Hill, said leaving it in the board’s hands to do so probably wasn’t the right move.
“It’s kind of odd for me thinking about management versus governance, that the governing body would be acting on behalf of management,” Hill said. “…I still think it’s best practice to have a staff member managing that other staff members can go to if there’s a question or anything. The board is for governing and not management.”
Ultimately, the board didn’t make any decision about who should be next in the chain of command to fill that role once Partridge’s retirement is official in mid-June — board members simply agreed that sometime between now and June 15, they’d make a decision on that front.
In other business, Partridge told the board that Heartland Community Health Center met the Kansas Department of Health and Environment’s March 15 deadline to submit an application for the state’s grant for family-planning service providers, also known as Title X services. Heartland has been in talks with the health department for months to take over for the health department as the county’s grant holder, and Partridge said now the decision is in KDHE’s hands.
“…Every indication that I’ve got says that KDHE’s fully invested in making sure the Title X grant is awarded to this community and it’s executed to the best of Heartland’s ability,” Partridge said.
Until the grant is awarded in July, Partridge reiterated that the health department will continue to facilitate Title X services like contraceptive services and sexually transmitted infection testing and treatment as it has been. Partridge added that the health department submitted a letter of support for Heartland’s recent application to the Health Resources and Services Administration to resume offering services at the health department’s clinic at 200 Maine St. Heartland CEO Julie Branstrom told county leaders earlier this month that she plans for Heartland’s Title X care team to be based there.