Search is unerway for a new health department director

by: SHELBY CASE/CENTRAL OREGONIAN - Wendy Perrin has been praised for her work in reducing the county's incidence of infant mortality and low birthweight babies among other accomplishments.

Crook County officials are in the process of looking for a new county health department director.
   The current director, Wendy Perrin, steps down effective today, March 7, after having served as the director since 1999, and she will begin working as a school nurse in the Crook County School District, beginning Monday.
   "The county has been a great place to work for the past 10 years," said Perrin, who began working for the department in 1997 as a public health nurse. "When the opportunity arose to spend more time with my son while working with the school district, I had to take it."
   Her son is 4 and he will have his first year in school in the 2009-2010 school year.
   Perrin pointed to a number of accomplishments the Crook County Health Department has made.
   "Well, of course being in this beautiful building is a huge accomplishment," she said, adding that former Ochoco Community Clinic Director Lynn Martin was instrumental in getting a new clinic-health department building built.
   "But I did do some supportive functions on that," she said.
   "And all DHS (Department of Human Services) have been through some tough times in the last 10 years," Perrin added, referring to funding cuts. "I don't think clients have noticed any decreases in our services."
   Perrin's predecessor, Connie Hoffestetter, as director, helped bring in a "health mobile" to the county health department. Perrin and her staff have brought that mobile health vehicle out to Post and Paulina, providing WIC services to the public. She said that while people can get a "simple blood pressure check" they can also learn more about other county health services.
   Crook County Judge Scott Cooper pointed out Perrin's work at the department and her accomplishments.
   "She has been an ardent advocate for greater pre-natal and post-natal care for infants and mothers, and has launched several programs to reduce the county's incidence of infant mortality, low birthweight babies and mothers using substances during pregnancy," Cooper wrote in an e-mail to the media and others. "She 'survived' complicated directives from federal and state emergency preparedness officials in the wake of Sept. 11, the arrival of West Nile Virus in Oregon and concerns regarding the potential outbreak of avian flu, and she oversaw the launch of a health-side emergency preparedness coordinator's position. Most recently, she was active in helping bring the Kids Center to Prineville to provide a local resource for the investigation of child abuse."
   Perrin was among those commenting on what skills and qualifications she would like her successor to have.
   "I think qualifications that are important for the director is someone who is flexible with their schedule," she said.
   She said when there are not too many health department personnel in the office, "I go out and work at the front counter", adding that this is not the case with larger counties with more personnel.
   "It would be great to have a candidate with some public health knowledge," she said. A nursing degree is required, but she said public health and/or social services knowledge would be helpful. "And with the nursing shortage in the nation over the past I don't know how many years, it's going to be a struggle to fill the position."
   She also had a few words of farewell for her staff, a number of whom she has worked with in the past 10 years, saying "That change is good." She added that the new director will have some different ideas than what she had and she said this is a good thing.
   "It's going to be something very positive for the health department. And not just the health department - for the community," Perrin said.
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