CHARLESTON, W.Va. – The director of the Kanawha-Charleston Health Department said West Virginia lawmakers must devote more attention to local health departments.

“Whatever the structure and mechanisms that are in place today to save failing health departments, I think the Putnam County Health Department is an example that they do not work,” said Rahul Gupta, health officer and executive director of the Kanawha-Charleston Health Department.

Gupta went before the Finance Committee during interim meetings to explain the current partnership between the ailing Putnam County Health Department and the Kanawha-Charleston Health Department and propose it as a possible solution for operating health departments in the state.

The Putnam County Health Department contracted services with Kanawha-Charleston in June to combat mounting financial problems.

Gupta told lawmakers the partnership has resulted in positive outcomes.

“We are talking about an increase in services by several hundred percent while decreasing their budget by 41 percent,” Gupta said.

To be exact, there has been a net increase of public health services provided to the residents of Putnam County by 283 percent and a net projected decrease in the annual budget around $515,000.

Gupta said they achieved this by reducing overhead, providing capitol savings, reducing inventory and improving resource management. This is all part of a concept Gupta said can help other health departments.

“I believe in local control and self-control with checks and balances,” he said.

Gupta told committee members he wasn’t asking them to take control of the state health department, but simply to take a closer look at revising the current system.

“This is really a time to look at us and see, can we restructure and can we find a way to get it right where there are proper checks and balances and perhaps approach the future challenges in a much more savvy manner,” Gupta said.

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