Wendel Eyes Separate Health, Human Services Departments
MAYVILLE — With the departure of Christine Schuyler as the public health director and commissioner of Social Services, Chautauqua County Executive PJ Wendel is moving ahead to separate the departments.
The Chautauqua County Department of Health and Human Services was first formed in 2011 when the county merged its Department of Health and Department of Social Services.
“For 11 years, the county has operated with a Department of Health and Human Services, but I believe our programs and services will be better aligned and further enhanced by separating this pre-existing department and creating a new structure for the delivery of these services,” Wendel said in a news release. “I am excited to announce our new plan going forward that involves the restructuring of our current DHHS services and also includes an integration with a current county department.”
The five social service divisions of DHHS, including the divisions of Family and Children’s Services, and Transitional and Medical Assistance, will integrate with the Chautauqua County Department of Mental Hygiene to form the Chautauqua County Department of Mental Hygiene and Social Services.
In addition, the DHHS Division of Health will once again be a stand-alone department as the Chautauqua County Department of Health, to include all county public health and disease prevention programs, environmental health services, coroners, and providing medical services to the County Jail and county Emergency Services.
These changes, which are subject to the review of the Chautauqua County Legislature and New York state, are desired by Wendel to take effect in early 2023.
“This new structure will provide a stronger and more efficient way for our current employees to deliver human services to Chautauqua County residents,” Wendel said. “Many individuals and families often receive services from multiple areas of county government and this restructuring will better integrate our mental hygiene and social services so that we are working on a united front to provide timely, accessible and quality care to county residents as we maximize our partnerships and improve community support systems. The planning behind this integration has been in the works for many months and the teams on both sides have worked diligently from the very beginning to make sure this is a right fit for our county. I am pleased to see how organically this plan has taken root with our mental hygiene department and social services divisions.”
Wendel also announced new leadership for these departments once the reorganization changes go into effect. Carmelo Hernandez will serve as Director of the Department of Mental Hygiene and Social Services and Dr. Michael Faulk will serve as Chautauqua County’s Chief Medical Officer and head of the Department of Health.
Since September 2021, Hernandez has served as the Director of Community Mental Hygiene Services for the Chautauqua County Department of Mental Hygiene.
“In a short amount of time, Carmelo has proven to be a strong leader, collaborator and advocate for mental hygiene services in our county,” Wendel said. “His background in social services and mental hygiene services make him an excellent proponent to make this new integration successful.”
In his new role, Hernandez will provide administrative oversight for mental hygiene and social services. This includes ultimate responsibility for day-to-day operations thus ensuing quality service to the community while meeting state and federal mandates for each program.
“I look forward to continuing my leadership role with our division of mental hygiene services and working with my new colleagues in the social services divisions,” Hernandez said. “This restructuring will better integrate mental hygiene and social services so we can ensure our clients receive the best possible experience while we continue to support their journey for hope, wellness, recovery and resiliency.”
Faulk has served as physician in the county Department of Health and Human Services’ Division of Medical Examiners and Coroners since January 2019. He also currently serves as Medical Director of Integrated Acute Care for US Acute Care Solutions at Warren General Hospital, and Associate Medical Director for Public Safety for the Cattaraugus County Sheriff’s Office.
“Mike’s vast experience and background in many of our emergency medical services, medical and clinic services proves he is a worthy leader as we once again return to a separate department of health,” Wendel said. “Mike has worked very hard over his past three years with the county, and I am proud to promote someone who has proven himself in our organization.”
“I deeply appreciate the opportunity to serve our community in this role,” said Faulk. “Having oversight over the many facets of medical care the county provides will foster improved collaboration while striving to provide our residents with the highest quality public health services. I am both honored and humbled to have been asked to step into this unique role and lead what I already know to be a dedicated and talented team of professionals within the Health Department, Coroners Program, County Jail and Emergency Medical Services. After spending the last 15 years providing emergency and acute care across this region, I hope to apply this knowledge and experience in a broad manner to not only help solve some of our most important challenges affecting the health and wellness of our community but also to earn the trust of our residents.”
Faulk has been the interim public health director since Schuyler’s departure last month.