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FALK AND CIESLEWICZ ANNOUNCE PLAN TO UNIFY HEALTH SERVICES

For more information contact:

Dane County: Sharyn Wisniewski, 267-8823
City of Madison: Melanie Conklin, 266-4611

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE 9/30/2003

Issued By: County Executive
View only releases from County Executive
Madison Mayor Dave Cieslewicz and Dane County Executive Kathleen Falk today announced an innovative plan to unify many services and functions of the Madison and Dane County public health agencies. Under their proposal, the leadership of the agencies and many of their services would be merged while the two departments would remain independent. Both leaders describe the plan as a significant step toward the unification of both agencies.

“Our plan ensures that the two agencies will work hand-in-hand to provide seamless public health services to City and County residents,” Cieslewicz said. “Instead of being bounced around between two agencies, residents would have one number to call to get information about where and how to receive services and one person at the top to ensure the area’s public health needs are being met."

"These steps will insure that the public receives more convenient, more effective public health services. They also represent great progress toward the unification of both agencies. Public health problems, like communicable diseases, don’t stop at municipal borders. Our vision remains having one, excellent public health department serving our citizens,” said Falk.

Under the plan, one Director of Public Health would be hired in the middle of next year, rather than having two separate directors in the City and County. Savings from hiring one director will be realized in each budget. Although the City and the County would still be required to have separate boards of public health, the members of the boards would be identical to make sure the two agencies are working toward the same goals.

Following the appointment of the joint director, the City and the County would also hire one director for their Women, Infants and Children (WIC) programs to remove barriers to service.

“The way we currently deliver WIC services doesn’t make sense for our citizens,” Falk said. “Right now, for example, if a woman who lives in the City and is receiving WIC services from the City program moves across a street into the Town of Madison, her case is transferred to the County WIC program. Then, she has to learn new clinic schedules and providers. Our plan will eliminate these barriers and breaks in services.”

“With positions saved by hiring one WIC director, we will be able to add another direct provider -- a nurse or nutritionist, for example. It’s an example of how unification can lead to better services in times of tight budgets,” Cieslewicz noted.

Other new collaborative efforts between the two health agencies include:

* Joint intake for all public services: one phone number, fax number and email address to simplify the point of entry for all residents.

* Joint planning for communicable and chronic disease control efforts.

* Collaboration on future staffing needs and program evaluations.

* Joint Community Health Assessment reporting.

* Joint planning for bio-terrorism and emergency preparedness.

* Cooperating to make the City and County public health data base systems compatible.

Falk and Cieslewicz praised the years of work by task forces and study groups that preceded their agreement, saying past studies and debate laid the groundwork for a successful compromise today.

“This is just one example of the good things that can happen when the County Executive and the Mayor have a strong working relationship, and I know we can do more,” Cieslewicz said.

“In times of tough fiscal problems, cooperation makes more sense than ever. It’s the approach citizens expect of their elected officials. I look forward to working with the Mayor to find more ways to deliver better services at lower costs,” Falk concluded.

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