ITHACA, NY – On Tuesday, county legislators will make an important decision about the future of two Tompkins County Health Departments.

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Since March Director of Public Health Frank Kruppa has also taken charge of the Mental Health Department. For six months, the county held a search for a new Commissioner of Mental Health that was ultimately unsuccessful.

Two options have been advanced about what step to take next and opinion is split on which is the best course.

Frank Kruppa, Director of Tompkins Public Health, interim head of Tompkins Mental Health. (Provided photo)

The Budget, Capital, and Personnel Committee put forth the first option this month, which would see Kruppa maintain interim leadership of the Mental Health Department for another three years.

The alternative, recommended by the Health and Human Services Committee last month, would renew the nationwide search for a new Commissioner of Mental Health.

A report put together by the County Administrator’s office pushes for the first option, saying that health care organizations in the US are “trending toward an ever-increasing integration of behavioral health and public health programs and policies.”

The report notes that, “It is recognized that combined leadership of these two departments is unconventional and unproven,” but suggests that Kruppa’s leadership has already been beneficial and that both departments will continue to benefit with “the increasing convergence of community and behavioral health.”

The plan would also save the county a little over $60,000 a year.

According to the report, members of the Community Mental Health Services Board, in particular, have raised concerns about one person being responsible for both departments. Worries include that the department would suffer without someone dedicated solely to mental health issues, and that Kruppa might be stretched too thin by managing both departments.

According to a news release from the legislature, several members of the Community Mental Health Services Board told legislators that they supported the search for a new commissioner. They indicated that the board was, at best, “ambivalent” about continuing the interim arrangement.

On the other hand, the fiscal manager and medical director at Mental Health, along with members of the County Board of Health say that keeping Kruppa in both rolls would “provide unified administrative structure to allow for better collaboration and integration of the two types of services.”

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Michael Smith

Michael Smith reports on politics and local news for the Ithaca Voice. He can be reached via email at, by cell at (607) 229-0885, or via Google Voice at (518) 650-3639.