Salem County Board of Chosen Freeholders
94 Market Street. Salem, N.J. 08079
CONTACT: Rita Shade Simpson, Clerk of the Board/Administrator
December 24, 2002
SALEM COUNTY EXPLORES MERGER OF COUNTY HEALTH SERVICES
SALEM -- Salem County, which already shares services with Cumberland County for some public health programs, is exploring a formal merging of the two county departments to save taxpayer dollars and improve delivery of health services, Freeholder Sue Bestwick announced today.
"By combining the services of the two health departments, we would be eligible to receive more grant funding and be able to provide professional services to both counties without placing additional tax burdens on residents", explained Freeholder Bestwick, who chairs the Health and Social Services Committee.
"We have an excellent performance record of shared services," said Bestwick. "Currently, Salem and Cumberland County share the services of a County Health Officer and various professionals assigned to West Nile virus, bio-terrorism, and other environmental programs. I believe it would be a natural progression to further regionalize services."
For the past year, the two counties, which have a combined population of approximately 225,000 residents, have been discussing merging administrative functions and additional health programs. Bestwick said she hoped a final decision would be reached sometime in 2003.
"Since 9-11, the federal and state governments have recognized that the role county health departments must be redefined to emphasize environmental response and delivery of public health services," explained Bestwick. "Attracting professionals in these fields and restructuring programs can best be done by pooling our funds and resources. Cumberland and Salem Counties are such small counties; we will be more successful if we combine our efforts."
Bestwick said there are challenges to the merger, but the alternate system of delivering effective and efficient public health services must be explored.
"I remain hopeful that this is the direction to go," said Bestwick. "Salem County residents can be assured that the two counties will enter into regionalized services only if the merger guarantees better health care services for both counties at a savings to taxpayers."