Picente: Office of Mental Health Commissioner Moves On To State

Acting Director Appointed While Search For New OHM Commissioner Set To Begin

Oneida County Executive Anthony Picente Jr. announced that Oneida County Commissioner of Mental Health Linda Nelson has accepted a position as the Director of the Central New York Field Office of the New York State Office of Mental Health. 

Anthony J. Picente Jr. said “Linda Nelson has been an integral part of our leadership team here in Oneida County. She has done an exceptional job in difficult times due to budget constraints and an increased work load. Linda will do exceptional work as she assists the New York State Office of Mental Health as it makes its transition.”

In Nelson’s new position she will serve a newly created twenty county region that stretches to the Canadian border in the north to the Pennsylvania border in the South.  The Counties included in the new region are Broome, Cayuga, Chenango, Clinton, Cortland, Delaware, Essex, Franklin, Fulton, Hamilton, Herkimer, Jefferson, Lewis, Madison, Montgomery, Oneida, Onondaga, Oswego, Otsego, and St. Lawrence.  The Central NY field office will be located in Syracuse.

The position will facilitate communications between the counties, agencies, recipients and families in the region. The office will coordinate such activities as planning, program development, coordination of services and problem resolution. The main goal for Mrs. Nelson will be to establish the new Regional Centers of Excellence within Central NY.

Oneida County will conduct a search for a new Commissioner of Mental Health starting immediately. The Commissioner of Mental Health Services serves as the director of the Local Governmental Unit of Oneida County.  The duties include exercising general direction in the planning, coordination and operation of the mental health, developmental disabilities and substance abuse or dependence services provided within the community

Debra Whiteford will assume the Commissioner’s responsibilities until a permanent replacement is selected.

Anthony J. Picente Jr. said “Deb Whiteford has the experience and institutional knowledge to lead the Office of Mental Health through this transition. I’m grateful she has taken the Interim Director position and look forward to working with her.”

Debra Whiteford currently serves as Director of Developmental Disabilities Services in the Department of Mental Health. She has 30 years with Oneida County in the Aging and Mental Health Departments.