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Onondaga health department ready to shift focus from COVID

A medical professional dressed in personal protective equipment works on a computer in a medical facility.
Kevin P. Coughlin
State of New York
A medical professional dressed in personal protective equipment works on a computer in a medical facility.

Addressing the opioid crisis and lead poisoning will be top priorities for the Onondaga County Health Department this upcoming year.

Health officials outlined their objects to county lawmakers on Thursday during the legislature's week-long review of County Executive Ryan McMahon's proposed budget. The spending plan calls for a $2 million boost to the agency.

Deputy County Executive Ann Rooney said at the health department budget review that the extra funding will help the health department primarily focus on health issues that have been less of a priority due to the pandemic.

“We now are in a time period of going from everything everybody hands on deck responding to Covid to transitioning back to regular operations,” Rooney said.

Now, Rooney said the county has COVID-19 on the backburner compared to other pressing health issues, such as lead poisoning and the opioid crisis.

“We are the leaders in Onondaga County with all the agencies and of all the priorities between lead and opioids, this is where 2023 will be focused,” Rooney said.

The proposed budget calls for a $2 million increase for the health department. Rooney said the higher amount is due to inflation rates, increases in the special children services area, and reorganization of vital records. She said some of the budget will also go towards a new health commissioner.

“I would be remiss if I didn’t say we’ll be welcoming a new health commissioner, which I personally cannot wait for, but she will be joining us upon your approval in the beginning of November so we’ll be starting 2023 off, and running,” Rooney said.

Onondaga County Executive Ryan McMahon recently nominated Dr. KathrynAnderson as the next health commissioner. She succeeds Dr. Indu Gupta, who retired in July. Lawmakers are expected vote on Anderson's appointment next month.

The legislature will release its full review of the budget next week. A public hearing is set for Oct. 6 for the community to weigh in.

Alaina is a graduate student studying broadcast and digital journalism at Syracuse University's S.I. Newhouse School Of Public Communications, expected to graduate May 2023. As a multimedioa reporter she helps produce audio and digital content for WAER. Alaina previously recieved her first masters in magazine, news, and digital journalism in May 2022 from Syracuse University's S.I. Newhouse School Of Public Communications and she enjoys golfing and reading in her free time.