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County will seek waiver from state for unique arrangement with mental health director

It seemed like a good arrangement. Genesee County's mental health director, Ellery Reeves, landed the position of mental health commissioner in Erie County, but was willing to continue as mental health director for Genesee County.

Once the state found out about the arrangement, it turned out things weren't quite so simple. The county still needs the state's blessing for an agreement that really isn't covered by current state law.

The new contract with Reeves made him a "less than full-time" contract worker -- no benefits, on-call, he would invoice the county for his services like any contract worker.

Reeves told the county legislature in a special meeting Wednesday that such consolidated services are the wave of the future. He expects some day there will be only one mental health director for the entire eight-county Western New York Region, but current law hasn't quite caught up with the concept.

Though this isn't a "shared services" arrangement with Erie County, Erie County has given Reeves the OK to also serve as Genesee County's mental health director. There are other counties in the state that share mental health directors.

State law makes provisions for a full-time mental health director in a county, or part-time (which a county must have), but not "less than full time" nor for a contracted consultant.

Legislators discussed Wednesday the difficulty of finding director candidates who will accept the pay level of a small county and still meet state requirements, which is part of the reason the arrangement with Reeves seemed to be a good fit for the county's needs.

There are no other employees in the county who have the state-sanctioned qualifications to be director, and the County Services Board (which oversees the mental health department) and the legislature want to keep Reeves in the job.

To do that, the county will need to write a letter to the state's Inter Office Coordinating Council, which much approve all mental health directors, and seek a waiver so that Reeves can be a "less than full time" contracted mental health director.

The budget or the contracted position is $48,000 to $50,000. Reeves salary in 2011 was $74,652.

Mark Potwora
mepot's picture
Joined: May 14 2008

Don't we pay a the county Atty. to make sure issues like this don't happen..I

John Stone
Papa-san's picture
Joined: Jul 4 2008

Put a task, any task, in the hands of attorneys, and you WILL have problems in the future... GUARANTEED... Common sense is the least common of the senses, and ceased to really be a factor a long time ago. (It's resultant conscience went with it, it seems...)
I'm hoping the laws can be relaxed, but that wouldn't be billable at a million a week, so they'll actually just keep adding to it.

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