Two Multnomah County managers who’ve helped steer their divisions through the COVID-19 pandemic have been named to top executive positions in the Health Department, Chair Deborah Kafoury announced yesterday.
The Multnomah County Community Health Council appointed Tasha Wheatt-Delancy as the new Health Center Executive Director of the Integrated Clinical Services Division, overseeing the County’s 25 clinics, seven pharmacies and central laboratory.
The division is Oregon’s largest Federally Qualified Health Center (FQHC), a term for community-based health care centers that receive federal funds to provide health care services to the underserved. The Community Health Council, a 51% patient majority governing board, partners with the Board of County Commissioners to ensure our community receives affordable and quality health care services.
Chair Kafoury on Monday accepted the appointment of Wheatt-Delancy, who has led the clinic system as interim director since January, when former director Vanetta Abdellatif left to lead a Seattle-based foundation.
Also today, the Chair announced she has appointed Jessica Guernsey as Public Health Director for Multnomah County. The Public Health Director directs the County’s COVID-19 response and oversees all case investigation and contact tracing. Guernsey, who has served as deputy director since 2017, replaces Director Rachael Banks who leaves Oct. 26 to become the State Public Health Director.
“At a time when excellence, proven performance and continuity are essential to meeting the challenges we face, Tasha and Jessica have demonstrated years of sound leadership at the County and rock-solid commitment to the transformational change we seek for a more equitable, just world,’’ Chair Kafoury said.
In making Wheatt-Delancy’s appointment, Community Health Council Chair Harold Odhiambo said, “She has stepped up and shown us that she has the ability and expertise to lead this organization into the future and has provided stability during these unprecedented times.”
“We also chose Tasha because her vision of the health center is rooted in community, the foundation of the health center movement,’’ Odhiambo added.
“As Socrates said, ‘The secret of change is to focus all of your energy not on fighting the old, but on building the new.’”
Wheatt-Delancy joined the County in 2015 as the Senior Manager at Mid-County Health Center & Refugee Clinic and then was promoted to Primary Services Director. The Community Health Council appointed Tasha as interim health center executive director in January 2020.
Wheatt-Delancy brings years of experience in culturally specific behavioral health and substance use disorder programming, child and family outpatient therapy services, Federally Qualified Health Center operations, grant writing, supported housing program development, homeless services programming, clinical operations, diversity consultation and training, organizational development, and culturally specific program development. Before joining Multnomah County, Wheatt-Delancy served as the Director of Clinical Operations at the Garlington Center.
As Health Center Executive Director, she will manage the County’s 10 Student Health Centers, seven Primary Care Clinics, seven Dental Clinics, seven pharmacies, Specialty HIV Clinic and central laboratory.
With a $139 million budget and more than 680 employees, the community health center serves more than 66,000 clients each year — 75 percent of whom live under the poverty line, 64 percent of whom are people of color and 43 percent of whom speak a language other than English at home. In the past year, Wheatt-Delancy has led the County’s clinical response to the COVID-19 pandemic, ensuring access to care and testing for patients and Black, Indigenous and other communities of color hit hardest by the virus.
Guernsey has also played a critical role during COVID-19, including as co-author of the County’s original pandemic influenza response plan, which she helped develop years earlier in response to the bird flu.
Guernsey first came to the County as a Public Health Educator in 2001 to work on heroin overdose prevention and harm reduction. As part of a team, she helped develop a strategic plan on Hepatitis C prevention and a volunteer program to support syringe exchange, an activity for which she still fills shifts. In 2007, as the “bird flu’’ began emerging globally, Guernsey began coordinating with culturally specific community-based organizations, and state and local partners, on a strategic plan for how the region would respond to an influenza pandemic. This became the basis of the County’s response when, in the spring of 2009, a flu virus called H1N1 emerged.
After working as the Public Health Division’s Operations Manager supporting all Public Health programs, Guernsey went on to lead the County’s Maternal Child and Family Health programs.
In that role, she helped support the development of the Future Generations Collaborative, a community partnership that builds on the strength and resiliency of Native peoples and Native-serving organizations in Multnomah County to increase healthy pregnancies and healthy births, strengthen Native American and Alaska Native families, and improve the lives of people living with fetal alcohol spectrum disorders (FASD).
Guernsey also supported the launch of Empezando con Salud, a partnership with Latinx community-based agencies, Integrated Clinical Services and CareOregon to develop a Latinx-specific pregnancy and new parent support team.
Since January, Guernsey has provided critical planning, operational and public information leadership in unified command in the Emergency Operations Center. She will oversee Public Health's $59 million budget and 266 employees, and the additional $35 million and 100 employees added in the COVID-19 response.
“Jessica is a fiercely competent, futuristic and thoughtful leader whose work is based in addressing systemic racism and improving social determinants of health,” says outgoing Public Health Director Rachael Banks.
“She’s always thinking multiple steps ahead to make sure we’re prepared for what may come our way.’’
Chair Kafoury announced the appointments in an email to the County’s 6,000 employees Monday saying, “I am proud and delighted to see two leaders who know our community and organization so well lead us into the future.”