A desire for increased focus on behavioral and mental health services has seven candidates running for three open seats on the Indian River County Hospital District Board of Trustees.
Along with mental health, the importance of improving the quality of primary and specialty care offered in Indian River County, particularly as it relates to Cleveland Clinic, are also key issues to these candidates.
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Seats 2, 4 and 7, all non-partisan, are open on the Indian River County Hospital District Board of Trustees for the Nov. 8 election, with two candidates running for Seats 2 and 4, and three candidates for Seat 7.
Only one, Allen Jones running for Seat 4, is an incumbent. He joined the board in 2014 when he was appointed by then Gov. Rick Scott and was subsequently elected in 2015 and 2019.
The other current trustee, Ann Marie McCrystal, chose not to run again.
For Seat 2, Dr. Igor Khromov, 50, an Indian River County physician for over 20 years, faces retired United Way CEO Michael Kint. Both candidates are concerned with improving local health and wellness services in the county.
“I would assist the fellow Indian River Hospital District trustees in ascertaining the impact of our local health care programs and help in improving the quality of care with appropriate evaluation and benchmarks,” Khromov noted on his website https://igorkhromov.org/.
For Kint, 68, the issue of improving health within the community starts with recognizing behavioral and mental health concerns.
“This is an area of great personal interest and importance to me,” Kint wrote in a questionnaire he provided to TCPalm.com. “As one of the founders and a longtime board member of the Mental Health Collaborative, a key Hospital District funded agency, I bring awareness and experience in this critical health area.”
Facing off for Seat 4 is incumbent Allen Jones, who has served as both a trustee and district treasurer, and attorney Paul Westcott. Jones, 80, is a retired senior executive for Merrill Lynch and Westcott, 58, is self-employed as a private mediator for Westcott Mediations.
Jones was a member of the Board of Trustees when Cleveland Clinic assumed operations at Indian River Medical Center. Since that time, he has worked to develop metrics that measure appropriately the outcomes for patients by healthcare providers funded by the District.
As treasurer, Jones said he has worked to reduce the Hospital District’s tax rate related to district expenditures by 42% since 2016. He wants to expand the availability of quality healthcare to all residents of the county, particularly those whose incomes fall below 200% below Federal Poverty Income Guidelines.
Westcott also sees value in developing metrics that measure outcomes for patients in Indian River County.
“Collecting data as to how patients and families experience (care) provided by the hospital will be helpful,” said Westcott. “That data can be a useful tool in assisting Cleveland Clinic’s performance.”
For Seat 7, Dr. William Cooney, Brian Gallagher and Jad Shalhoub are all vying for the seat left open in December when longtime trustee Michael Weiss resigned due to health reasons. Gov. Ron DeSantis chose to leave the seat open until the Nov. 8 election.
Cooney, 79, a retired hand surgeon, said he would make behavioral/mental health care his No. 1 priority if elected.
“Mental health care of the indigent, drug overuse individuals and seniors with chronic illnesses has not been well-addressed and there are inadequate facilities in Indian River County to identify and treat mental illness,” Cooney wrote on his TCPalm questionnaire. “There are not sufficient inpatient treatment centers as an example with Cleveland Clinic Indian River (Hospital) not prepared for these patients.”
Gallagher, 71, believes there is a great need in the county for additional mental health and substance abuse facilities.
“The county lacks the ability today to provide detox services to the people who need them, and the ability to provide adequate mental health services other than a three-day stay at the Behavioral Health Center,” wrote Gallagher on his TCPalm questionnaire.
Shalhoub, 27, is the youngest candidate to run for the Hospital Board. A graduate of St. Edward’s School, he brings an engineering degree and experience as a medical consultant/entrepreneur to the race.
The data-driven Shalhoub cites statistics showing shortages of primary care and specialty physicians in Indian River County.
“My top priority is the care the District/hospital provides our community with three specific areas of focus — patient care and satisfaction, employee retention and morale, and loss of independent doctors,” Shalhoub wrote in his questionnaire.
Campaign finance records show between December 2021 and Sept. 9, Khromov, Kint, Westcott, Cooney and Shalhoub received contributions to their campaigns.
The largest monetary total was raised by Westcott with seven contributions totaling $5,500, plus an additional $1,159.68 from in-kind contributions, mostly from donated marketing materials. Expenses were also used to purchase marketing material.
Cooney donated $2,000 to his campaign; Shalhoub donated $600 and had a $10 campaign contribution; Khromov donated $100 to his campaign; Kint received a $100 contribution; and neither Jones nor Gallagher raised any campaign money, election records show.
Indian River County Hospital District
Election: Nov. 8
Voters: All registered voters who live in Indian River County
Term: Four years, beginning Jan. 1