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  • Writer's pictureJournal Staff Report

LanCaster resigns health department post

Updated: Jun 23, 2023

Linn County Health Department staff member Amanda Snyder reads a name of a winner during a raffle of items at the department's countywide baby shower last June. The event is one that continued under department Director Missy LanCaster's tenure. LanCaster resigned from her position on Monday. (Roger Sims/Linn County Journal)

MOUND CITY – Monday, March 13, marked another milestone in the sometimes tumultuous events surrounding the Linn County Health Department (LCHD) over the past three years.

Health department Administrator Missy LanCaster submitted her resignation to the Linn County Commission during a closed-door meeting with commissioners. Commissioners noted her resignation after coming out of the executive session.

“ I want to thank her for her time and effort at the health department,” said Commission Chair Danny McCullough. “She stepped in at a pretty weird time for us all, and helped us out a lot.

“Missy, I appreciate everything you have ever done. Hopefully you will work with us to continue to make it thrive out there. Wish you the best of luck in the future.”

In a phone interview later on Monday, LanCaster said that she had taken a position at the Bates County Health Department in Butler, Mo. She said that she felt like Linn County was her second home and wished Linn County well.

She will continue to serve at LCHD for the next three weeks.

LanCaster’s resignation comes two weeks after Commissioner Jim Johnson publicly apologized about comments he made in an earlier meeting.

LanCaster had requested permission to install speakers in the LCHD building’s examination rooms to pipe in music so that a patient in one room couldn’t hear conversation in the adjacent room. Apparently the walls at the health center do not have sound insulation in the walls between the rooms.

At the Feb. 13 meeting, Johnson more than once commented on her request for speakers for confidentiality concerns saying the following, “I don’t think that’s is the whole reason we got the speakers” and “I’m not sure we got told the whole story on the speaker system.”

During his apology, Johnson said his remarks were taken out of context.

However, Johnson has been a vocal critic of the LCHD since he took office in January 2021.

When former health department administrator Tisha Coleman resigned the post in August 2021, Johnson invited Becky Johnson, administrator for Southeast Kansas Multi-County Health Department (SEKMCHD), to make a pitch to the commission for Linn County to rejoin the multi-county system that it abandoned in 2006.

However, while SEKMCHD would likely have a smaller budget, it typically provides substantially fewer services to the counties it serves. And the staff at the Linn County Health Department applies for and receives grants that cover as much as half of its operating costs.

Under LanCaster’s direction, the LCHD quickly rebounded following the departure of Coleman and another nurse. Many of the programs and events offered before her hire were quickly resumed.

LanCaster has continued to apply for, and receive, state and federal grants that keep programs like Women, Infants, and Children (WIC) in place. Events like the community baby shower, which provided families with thousands of dollars worth of items for infants and toddlers – all paid for by grants – and access to other services, have been well attended.

However, Commissioner Johnson has continued to be critical of services provided there and even forced delays in purchasing supplies.

LCHD was able to purchase with the help of a grant a device that allows staff there to perform a single test to detect COVID, RSV and influenza. That test has been particularly important over the last few months as all three of those upper respiratory infections have resurfaced.

However, when LanCaster last fall asked to renew a contract, using grant funds, that would provide maintenance and supply test supplies. Johnson was part of an effort to delay the renewal, and he questioned the need for the county to provide those tests.

LanCaster told him that the medical clinics in the county referred patients to the LCHD for those tests because it would help them determine what course the treatment should take.

The LCHD response to the COVID pandemic likely played a role in the departure of Coleman from the department. She left shortly after Johnson and other commissioners ordered the LCHD and Doug Barlet, the county’s Emergency Management director, to stop posting local COVID results in 2021.

Previous to the resignation of Coleman, Jay Allen, a Pleasanton physician, resigned as county health officer in the wake of criticism for implementing a lockdown of public places and quarantine procedures in the early days of the COVID pandemic in 2020.

Both Coleman and Allen received threats from individuals because of their stance during the pandemic. Those threats were a result of a nationwide backlash to misinformation on the virus, which has infected nearly 103.7 million Americans and resulted in more than 1.1 million deaths across the United States, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control (CDC).

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