Onondaga County reorganization plan led to Morrow resignation

Apr 3, 2014

Onondaga County’s longtime health commissioner, Dr. Cynthia Morrow, has resigned in a disagreement over a portion of the planned reorganization of the county's human service agencies.

In the proposed new iteration of the Onondaga County's structure, Executive Joanie Mahoney's administration wants maternal and child health programs, which target at-risk infants and children as well as their families, to fall under the Department of Children and Family Services, which currently focuses on child welfare.  

Morrow, who’s been the county’s chief public health officer for the last nine years, believes these programs should stay under the domain of the Health Department. It’s that dispute that led her to hand in a letter of resignation this week.

“At the end of the day, we are all here for the same purposes, and that’s to serve the community. But if we have very different visions of what that looks like, it sometimes presents a difficult challenge. And that’s the situation we’re in right now,” said Morrow.

Morrow told reporters Thursday while announcing her resignation, why she can’t get behind the change:

"I support the idea of improved coordination of services, but I strongly believe that maternal and child health is a core public health function, and is best supported and thrives best in a public health model,” said Morrow. "I am very concerned about some unintended consequences of that. I know that the county  administration is looking at those concerns. But I have to do what I feel is the right thing to do. And for me  that means staying by my principal that maternal and child health is a public health core function.”

Onondaga County Deputy Executive for Human Services Ann Rooney says this department shuffling is meant to make it easier for clients to access services.    

"The intention has always been about better coordinated service delivery. And I think Dr. Morrow explained that well, we just have a different vision about that.  So this is more of an intention to have all programs that serve women and children under one department," said Rooney.

These departmental changes are expected to go into effect next year. There will be no changes in program or staffing in this new model.   

Morrow will stay on for an undetermined amount of time while the county searches for a new health commissioner.