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March 28, 2009

 

County hires part-time psychiatrist

Camillus doctor to earn $99,008 working 17 hours per week in Mental Health Department

By CATHERINE WILDE
Staff Reporter
cwilde@cortlandstandard.net

Beginning July 1, Cortland County will have an additional part-time psychiatrist who will work 17 hours a week to ease the full-time psychiatrist’s caseload.
Legislators approved hiring Dr. Evan DeLucia-Deranja of Camillus by a vote of 12-6 Thursday. Legislator Tom Hartnett (D-4th Ward) was absent.
DeLucia-Deranja will be paid $58,000 for the remainder of the year. He will be paid $99,008 for each full year, an amount budgeted until 2010.
Some legislators opposed hiring another adult psychiatrist, since the county does not have a child psychiatrist and one is needed.
“To spend money when it is not what we are looking for I don’t think is wise,” Legislator Kathie Wilcox (R-5th Ward) said.
Dr. Jason Stepkovitch’s workload is so great that he needs help, said Michael Kilmer, director of administrative services for the county’s Mental Health Department.
“Dr. Stepkovitch has over 500 active patients and people wait over a month to see him,” Kilmer said, calling the caseload an “insurmountable task.”
Kilmer added that it is not very likely the county will recruit or afford a child psychiatrist since they are in such high demand. Child psychiatrists charge up to $250 an hour as compared to Stepkovitch’s $115 hourly rate, Kilmer said.
Although adult psychiatrists are not licensed in child psychiatry, Kilmer said they have training in that area so DeLucia-Deranja could also see child patients. Kilmer said Stepkovitch has been seeking advise from child psychiatrists through telephone conferences when he has difficult cases and he said DeLucia-Deranja could do the same.
DeLucia-Deranja’s hours and days he works will be negotiable, said County Administrator Scott Schrader. They will be worked out between DeLucia-Deranja, Kilmer and Stepkovitch and be based on what would best serve the clinic.
Legislator Tom Williams (R-Homer) voted against hiring DeLucia-Deranja because of financial reasons.
“We are adding and adding and adding to a budget that from all indications I’ve seen ... probably in the near future we are going to have to start contracting (cutting spending),” Williams said.
He added that he is also concerned that the search for a child psychiatrist would end now that the slot has been filled.
Wilcox agreed with Williams’ fiscal concerns, saying the county should be cutting spending, especially in the field of mental health, which is not a mandated service.
“We provide a good service but now we need to make hard choices and cut back,” Wilcox said.
Legislator Kathie Arnold (D-Cuyler, Solon and Truxton) voted in favor of hiring DeLucia-Deranja, saying the long-term benefits of providing psychiatric care in the county outweigh the cost.
“It seems like there is a need in the county for more psychiatric services and it seems like it’s providing a preventative measure,” Arnold said.
“If we don’t have services people need, it seems we could end up with greater cost and greater problems down the line,” she added.

 

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