By SUE SUCHYTA
DEARBORN – With the City Council approving the salary for the city’s director of Public Health, Ali Abazeed, on May 10, Mayor Abdullah Hammoud, at the council’s request, cleared up departmental misconceptions.
Hammoud said the new initiative is exciting.
“It is called a health and health policy approach,” he said. “We have actually received national attention from the model that we carry through it.”
Hammoud said he hopes to have full fellowships in the department, through partnerships with educational institutions in areas such as law, social work and health.
“We actually have 25 paid fellows by the University of Michigan coming to begin at the city of Dearborn for the next week, all paid for by the University of Michigan,” he said. “Many of these placements will be annual, which is also great, and so, we are excited to see how this rolls out.”
Hammoud said they had 100 applicants for the 25 positions.
The mayor noted that Abazeed comes from the National Institute of Health, and will be able to maintain some of his NIH status on an unpaid basis, as well as maintain his work relationships there.
Councilmember Ken Paris said that this is not a health department like the city had a decade ago, and it is not hiring a doctor.
Hammoud concurred, and said it is not a “point of service” public health department, and people will not go to the department to be vaccinated or receive a medical service.
“Rather, it is about applying a public health lens to each and every decision the city makes,” he said. “Some of the top-of-mind issues that I can think of, obviously, coming out of the pandemic, I won’t speak to COVID, though COVID is still top of mind, you can speak to mental health, we obviously have a rising prevalence of substance and drug use dependency issues.”
Hammoud said that if you look at many of the major incidents that have happened in the city to which emergency workers have responded, whether the arson at the Dearborn Fresh Supermarket or the mosque incident, or, on May 10, when a woman jumped off the bridge from Michigan Avenue onto Greenfield, all the incidents have to do with mental health issues, and police officers are not the best equipped to deal with such situations.
He said that the city encounters hoarding situations weekly, where houses have to be condemned because of the amount of rat and human feces that make the residence no longer safe or viable.
“It’s a health crisis that demands a mental health solution,” he said. “So, rather than relying on our DPW folks, it will be a partnership with public health.”
Hammoud said there will be partnerships with other local organizations as well.
He said as the department begins to build out its initiatives, they will have a broader understanding of the role of the city’s health department, what demonstrates success, and what demonstrates proof of concept.
Abazeed’s salary is $120,000 annually. The city council approved his salary for the remainder of the fiscal year, April through June, at its May 10 meeting.